Moroccan Vegetable Stew
A combination of Moroccan spices is used to develop rich deep flavors in this vibrant vegetarian soup. While traditionally whole spices are used and then ground when ready to cook for the maximum flavor and freshness, I use already ground spices because it cuts down on prep time. The spices are then toasted in the pot to bring out the aromas. The temperature has dipped below 50 here in Southern California which is practically a blizzard and this Moroccan vegetable stew is great for warding off the cold. It is packed with peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, lentils and chickpeas making for a hearty and comforting meal - perfect for warming you up inside and out. Because the majority of the ingredients are added at one time it is helpful to have your mise en place ready to go before you start cooking (that is all your ingredients prepped ahead of time).
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium leek, trimmed and thinly sliced (whites and light green parts only)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium yellow bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 cups diced sweet potatoes
1 cup split red lentils
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon orange zest
½ cup chopped cilantro, divided
Naan bread, warmed, for serving (optional)
Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the onions, leeks and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, and white pepper, stirring to combine. Let cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.
Add the bell pepper, carrots, sweet potatoes, lentil and chickpeas, tomatoes, vegetable stock and 2 cups of water to the pot, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the lentils are cooked through and the sweet potatoes are tender. Add additional water ½ cup of water at a time if the soup becomes dry.
Remove the pot from heat and season with kosher salt. Stir in the orange zest and half the cilantro. Ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls. Top remaining cilantro and serve with warmed naan bread on the side.