Recipe for Moroccan Vegetarian Vegetable Stew in a Slow-Cooker
If you are a busy vegetarian coming home after a long day at work you will often be assailed by the aroma of BBQ (that means grilling meat). Do you want to come home to something just as mouth-wateringly fragrant and just as satisfying to eat... something healthy and vegetarian like you aim to be? Well, this recipe for Moroccan vegetable stew done up in a slow cooker or a crockpot will fit the bill! This is a welcoming Middle-Eastern-flavoured curry, light on the hot peppers and leaning more to the delights of cinnamon with veggies in a comfort food mode... soft, chewy, yummy!
- 1 medium Zucchini, chopped in 1/4
- 1 - 2 medium Onions (red or sweet), sliced in rounds
- 1 or more Sweet Red Pepper, seeded and sliced in rounds
- 1 Eggplant, sliced in semi-circles (leave peel on)
- 2 Sweet Potato, peeled, chopped in rounds
- 1 15-oz. can Chick Peas (Garbanzo Beans)
- 2 Ripe Tomatoes, chopped chunky
- 1/4 Cup Sauerkraut, (optional)
- 4 cloves Garlic, minced finely
- 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice, freshly-squeezed
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Tablespoon Cumin
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons of Each of: Turmeric, Cinnamon and Paprika
- Pinch Cayenne
- 4 Honey or Medjool Dates, Chopped
- 2 Teaspoons Celtic Sea Salt (or kosher salt)
- Soak and Wash Vegetables in large bowl of clear Water with 3 Tablespoons of Cider Vinegar mixed in. Scrub and dry off.
- Chop and slice all vegetables (if preparing to put in the pot for supper, it is not a bad idea to do the chopping the night before and then to store in a bowl, covered with a clean cloth and a lid, in the fridge overnight. This saves a lot of time in the morning.)
- Layer all the chopped and sliced vegetables, Beans, Dates, and Sauerkraut (if using) in the Slow Cooker pot.
- Mix together the various spices and salt. Add to the pot, covering as much of surface of vegetables as possible.
- Whisk together Lemon Juice and Olive Oil and pour over the spices and vegetables. Put the lid on the Slow Cooker.
- Turn on Slow Cooker to Medium or Low and come back to eat it later!
- Cook up a pot of Quinoa or Brown Rice or Couscous at the time of eating and spoon the Vegetables over the starch. Enjoy this delightful Moroccan Vegetable dish!
Berbers - Ancient and Modern
What is Moroccan Cuisine?
I first sampled North African cuisine (Morocco is a country in Northern Africa) several years ago in an Okanagan city in British Columbia-- either Penticton or Kelowna, can't recall which. I do remember that we were feeling a little bored by the lack of interesting (and vegetarian) restaurant fare in the small, land-locked city. We were excited when we walked past the small eatery to smell the lovely fragrance of warm spices and fresh baked flatbreads.
Moroccan cuisine is largely influenced by Berber and Mediterranean cooking.
The Berbers refers to original tribes and ethnic groups from the "Berber homeland" in North Africa encompassed by the Mediterranean Sea to the Niger River, and from Egypt's Siwa Oasis to the Atlantic Ocean. The Vandal / Roman invaders called the peoples 'Barbarians' and this name was echoed by the Muslim invaders. We have come to associate "barbarian" with the idea of ruthlessness and cruelty. There might be some link between the modern word and the strength and determination with which the Berbers attempted to defend the borders of their homelands against the streams of incoming colonialists.
Linguistically, the Berber language is part of the Afro-Asiatic language family. The original Berber language, like all world languages, has been reconstituted to include the languages of invaders and colonizers: Arabic, French and Spanish, mainly.
Berber food is described as being similar to Middle-Eastern food, only more heavily spiced. Spices commonly used in tagine (the traditional vegetable stew, as above, only cooked in an earthenware pot over an open fire) generally is spiced with ginger, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and saffron. A more thorough study of the history of Berber foods will show who influenced who (was Berber couscous, for example, introduced into Middle Eastern eating, or the other way around?). That is beyond the scope of this article.
Watch the video (right) for more details on tagine and baking bread.
Mediterranean Diet is NOT Healthy
Egg Plant Turnovers- the Mediterranean Influence
Mint Tea -- So Sweet!
Most of us have a pretty good idea about Mediterranean diet and cuisine-- or think we have! In fact, "Around 1975, under the impulse of one of those new nutritional directives by which good cooking is too often influenced, the Americans discovered the so-called Mediterranean diet. The name even pleased Italian government officials, who made one modification: changing from diet—a word which has always seemed punitive and therefore unpleasant—to Mediterranean cuisine."1 If you have traveled in the Mediterranean countries (those bordering on the Mediterranean Sea) you will have a good idea of the subtle, and even vast, differences in the diets of various peoples in the Mediterranean countries-- not to mention the liberties taken by those designing and naming the diet as it suits them (for more discussion on the health status of "The Mediterranean Diet" see the video to the right).
During Medievel times, Moroccan Muslims invaded Spain by crossing the Strait of Gibralter and making their way up the Iberian Pennisula. Over time they converted and intermarried with some Christian Iberians whom Arabs named "Muladi". The 'pastilla' or pidgeon pie made its way from the Iberian peninsula into Morocco, as did many Sephardic Jewish dishes such as various stuffed vegetable dishes (see the stuffed peppers in the tajine in the video about Berbers above). Traditionally Jews do not mix milk and meat together. Couscous and pulses (chickpeas, lentils) are probably contributed to the Moroccan menu via the Sephardic Jewish cooking traditions.
Moroccans also invaded Sicily in the early 8th Century. They share various fruits and nuts in common in their food preparations, and again I find it difficult to tell from a perusal of various Internet sites to tell, unequivocally, whether the influences were Moroccan to Sicilly, Sicilly fused to Morocco, or perhaps mutual in many cases.
Besides the Berber and Mediterranean influences in their diet, Morocco was also a French Protectorate from 1912 to 1956. It would seem that French influence in the diet was mainly in the form of upping the amount of meat preparations. The French, on the other hand, welcomed many North African influences upon their gastronomy. The same can be said by the Indians who quite often do Indian-North African fusion restaurants, a great thrill for the vegetarians I know.
1Massimo Alberini, Giorgio Mistretta, Guida all'Italia gastronomica, Touring Club Italiano, 1984, p. 37
Dessert is Fresh Fruit and Pastry
Come Home to Deliciousness!
There is a LOT more to be said about and for Moroccan food. The very fragrance of it cooking outdoors at festivals makes me joyful! There are many wonderful recipes on the Internet that will provide you with the cuisine bliss you may be looking for. If you are off to work and want to have a delightful comfort meal on your return, just throw together the ingredients here into your crock pot and come home to an aromatic, delicious, low fat, high nutrition meal!