North African Stew

We had a friend from Athens staying with us for a few days.  He told us that Greeks have a saying for clear and cold days.  They say that the sun has teeth.  People living on the east coast of America might disagree with me right now, but I am not ready for a warming Earth.  I am treasuring these chilly days, with unpredictable weather, and the opportunity to layer my clothing.  I discovered this about myself when I lived in the tropics:  I feel most like myself when the weather dictates layers of clothes.

This  stew suits my desire, at the moment, to melt down wagon loads of vegetables.  We planted some boxes of greens before we left for the winter break and now, mustards and kales are tumbling over the sides.  I love going to the terrace with some shears and a colander to sheer them back.  Then I chop and dissolve an enormous amount into something bubbling on the stove.

Moroccan Stew, 1In this region, we can buy merguez sausages that are made of beef or lamb.  They are just right for this dish.  If you freeze them slightly, it is easy to squeeze tiny meat balls right out of the casings.  Turkey or chicken sausage would work just as well, but I don’t recommend pork which is contrary to North African cooking.

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients.  You can just keep dicing and spicing while you do something else.  I recommend listening to the The Book Thief.


4 tablespoons olive oil
2 Spanish onions, chopped
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded if desired, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1.2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons tomato paste
500 grams (1/2 lb.) beef, lamb, or poultry sausage, bulk or in casings
1 fennel bulb, diced (save fronds for garnish)
1 very large bunch chard, stems sliced 1/2 inch thick,
leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large turnip, peeled and diced
1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in
water to cover or quick-soaked (see note)
1/3 cup diced dried apricots
2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon or regular lemon, rind and all
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Step 1
Heat oil in large pot over high heat.  Add onion and jalapeno and saute until limp, 3 minutes.  Add garlic, ginger, salt, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne and saute until they release their fragrance, about 2 minutes.  Add tomato paste and saute for another minute, until darkened but not burned.  (If tomato paste looks too dark too quickly, lower hear.)

Step 2
Add sausage and brown in spice mixture.  Add fennel, chard stems, carrot and turnip and continue to saute until vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes.  Add chickpeas and water to barely cover.

Step 3
Bring to a simmer.  Partly cover pot, lower heat to medium low, and simmer for about 1  1/2 – 2 hours, until chickpeas are softened.  Add more water if needed.

Step 4
Add chard leaves, apricots and preserved lemon to pot and continue simmering until chard is tender, about 5 minutes longer.  Season with more salt if desired and serve garnished with cilantro and reserved fennel fronds.


To quick-soak chickpeas, bring them to a boil in water to cover by 1 inch.  Turn off the heat and let soak for 1 hour.  Drain.


Clark, Melissa. “Moroccan Chickpeas with Chard.” New York Times [New York] n.d.: n. pag. Web. <;.


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