Roasted Beet Salad, Flowering Cabbage Tops and Spice-Marinated Lamb with Chickpea Stew

A gloomy, overcast day and a craving for Moroccan spices. Not that the two go hand in hand, but spices are proving to be a remedy for our unusually cold spring. So in between writing research, I planned a Moroccan-inspired meal to wake up my senses and nourish my soul.

Last Friday’s foray into the Saanich farmlands on Vancouver Island while hopeful with young spring greens and cucumbers, still carried evidence of winter produce. Beets are still on offer and are a tad woody used in their raw state, but baked whole offer earthy comfort. Once roasted in tin foil, cooked, peeled and quartered, they became a simple and delicious first course, stacked and sprinkled with feta cheese, mint, salt and drizzles of extra virgin olive oil.

Michell Farms is carrying flowering cabbage tops gleaned from their vast acreage of winter’s cabbage, and savoy cabbage tops seemed to fit the bill. Likened to rapini but sturdier, I blanched them first and applied nothing more than that olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. Second course, done.
For the main even, I cut up three lamb shoulder chops and marinated them in ground cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, paprika, garlic and lemon. After six hours or so, I sauteed the lamb in a deep pan with onions, more garlic, cumin and cinnamon, a couple of bay leaves, a few raisins, a reduced tomato sauce I had on hand, and simmered the stew for a couple of hours.
This dish was totally on the fly, incorporating what I had in the larder, plus a few leftovers, and it’s a dish that could have many variations: preserved lemons, roasted red peppers, apricots, or chicken standing in for the lamb.
I served the resulting stew with smashed chickpeas. I took a regular can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed, and heated them in a bit of water. Meanwhile, I sauteed some minced onions and sliced garlic in olive oil and once they were soft, added the warmed chickpeas, stirring to combine. I mashed them roughly and added more olive oil to make the mixture just a tad smoother, then a couple of dashes of hot paprika and lemon juice. The chickpeas were added to the top of the stew just before serving. A little Moroccan in flavour, a little Greek and a little local and a whole lot of delicious. The perfect remedy for a cold gloomy day.

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