It’s been crazy cold here in Ottawa these past few weeks. I mean, insanely cold! The media is having a field day calling this cold snap a polar vortex. Even cold weather veterans like us Canadians are shying away from spending anytime outdoor. All this Arctic air is making most of us gravitate towards warm, hearty and comforting meals. This simple yet fragrant vegetable medley fits the bill. Not only do the flavours evoke the white washed landscapes of Casablanca, the entire meal is super healthy and has that “stick to your ribs” qualities. What makes this vegetable stew “Moroccan inspired” is the use of ras el hanout, a spice blend that is to North Africa what Garam Masala is to India. Spice masters in Moroccan markets all have their own secret, special and prized blends. You can probably create your own blend of ras el hanout but be prepared to gather a impressive number of spices. If you are anything like me, buying a pre-blended mixture is more up my alley, Ras el hanout will vary in fragrancy, pungency and flavour depending on the the source and freshness. I would recommend trying to find a spice specialty store instead of relying on mass produced spice blends. What to expect: many floral notes and a bit of sweetness without heat. I favour coarse ras el hanout over powder but the later still delivers a good punch of flavour.
I served my vegetable medley with roasted chicken and orzo. The orzo was a substitute to couscous, which would have been a better option but at the very last minute, I realized I had none in my pantry… So I adapted hahaha! The chicken I simply rubbed with a generous amount of ras el hanout, salt, fresh garlic, pepper and olive oil. To cook it faster, I spatchcocked the chicken as per my post yesterday on chicken soup. An average size spatchcock chicken will roast in about one hour at 375F on convect roast. While the chicken was in the oven, I prepared the vegetables as follows. My total in the kitchen prep time was about 45 minutes.
Moroccan Inspired Vegetable Medley
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 average carrots, peeled and sliced in half circles
4 average zucchinis, sliced in half circles
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 1/2 tsp ras el hanout
1/2 tsp cinnamon
14 oz (400ml) can diced tomatoes
14 oz (400ml) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
In a large pot, heat oil on med-high heat. Add the onions and carrots. Cook a few minutes, stirring until the onions start to soften. Reduce the heat to medium if the vegetables start to brown. For this recipe, you do not want to caramelized the vegetables. Add the garlic and the ras el hanout. Stir another few minutes to release all the flavours. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, ginger and cinnamon. Bring to a soft boil and let cook until the carrots are almost tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the zucchinis last and cook until they are tender. Serve over couscous or any other grain/small pasta you have on hand.