My hometown of Houston, Texas is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the United States. Although we are home to many different cultures from Southeast Asia, Hispanic and Latin America, I have found North African cuisine to be most intriguing.
In primary school, I spent summers in a community center run by members of the local African community. There was always freshly prepared food for the kids. I still remember the earthy smell of spicy food coming from the kitchen today. The spice largely responsible for these delicious smells is Ras el Hanout, a blend of spices found in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. It’s made from a variety of spices, including cumin, cilantro, and turmeric, and used in a variety of meals to bring out amazing flavors.
This chickpea meal is a tribute to the tasty meals I enjoyed at the community center and a great way to showcase the Ras el Hanout spice blend. It’s a simple, inexpensive, vegan way to warm yourself up during winter – and it’s a quick meal that always brings a depth of flavor to every bite. Like spaghetti sauce, this dish matures over time. If you think it’s good fresh, wait to try it the next day!
Braised chickpeas and Swiss chard
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
- 4 teaspoons of neutral oil or butter
- A 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
- 2 tablespoons of Ras el Hanout (see the notes for making the mixture yourself)
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 2 teaspoons of paprika (1 tbsp if you want spice!)
- 1 cup of onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic
- A 28-ounce can of chopped or crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups chard, cut into ribbons (any leafy green will do, like kale)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Ras el Hanout spice blend:
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon of cayenne
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- teaspoon of ground cloves
- In a large, deep skillet, heat the butter over medium heat.
- Add the drained chickpeas and cook until they begin to brown.
- Add all the spices, onion and garlic, and cook for 3-4 minutes, continuing to stir with a wooden spoon.
- Add the canned tomatoes and ½ cup of water, then cook until the mixture begins to thicken (about 10-15 minutes).
- Add the chopped chard and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the greens wilt.
- Serve in a bowl with a piece of naan or a crusty, spongy bread, like sourdough.