Cumin Stew

My friend, Karen, had my husband and I over to dinner a couple of weeks ago.  The occasion was that she had been concealing a couple of octopuses in her freezer and her household helper was going to make them into a stew.  Karen needed some help eating this.  I went over, frankly, because I enjoy Karen’s company and because I’m up for a local home cooked eating experience.  The simple tomato based soup we had was so good that I hounded Karen until she could provide me with the basic recipe.

This is a rich, spicy broth that can take essentially any kind of protein.  Most highly recommended are organ meats or octopus.  We found some nice squid this week and after giving them a cleaning and a quick grilling to impart a little extra smokey flavor, they, too,  were excellent.

This soup can easily come together on a week night, after work and will pack nicely for lunch.  If you are unfamiliar with harissa, it is a hot pepper paste that Tunisia is famous for.  It comes in a tube and if you need me to bring you any, you need to let me know in the next two weeks.

Cumin Stew or Kamounia

Serves 2, generously

A little commentary from Karen:  “Traditionally this sauce is used on organ meats – a mixture of diced heart, kidney and liver. No thanks! I love it with octopus, but you can use other seafood or a mixture of seafood, and it’s good with stewing beef, too.”

All measurements are approximate. I would double this recipe.

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 C. water
  • salt, pepper, and harissa to taste
  • 250 g. or 1 lb. of seafood or meat
  • 1-2 tsp. cumin

On medium flame, sauté the onion in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Do not brown.

Add the meat and continue to cook for five minutes, stirring often.

Add the tomato paste, stir well and simmer for five minutes.

Add two cups of water, salt, pepper and harissa to taste.

Simmer until the meat is very tender. With octopus, this means either very briefly or for at least 45 minutes to an hour. Anything in between produces rubber. For this dish, I think the long simmering would be best. When it is cooked, the olive oil will be floating on the top.

At the end, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of freshly ground cumin and stir in well.

Serve with bread.

When I get back here in August, the octopus fishermen will be out in full force.  I promise to properly take up the topic of cleaning and preparing octopus then.

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