I feel comfortable when there’s a stew on the stove.
I think it’s a Welsh thing. Says him who’s giving you a recipe for EGYPTIAN stew, but still – I was raised on a good Lamb stew so I feel as though a simmer pot is a notion of sentiment as well as nostalgia.
A stew has the range to be a full-on feast with no effort. It can be made up of lingering ingredients in your pantry and can be made for the masses, without ever losing a drop of its richly textured and heavily layered flavouring. I recall my recipe for Beef Stew where I detailed that a stew is the perfect way for somebody who is perhaps a little Kitchen Shy to really develop their instinct in a Kitchen. I won’t repeat myself too much but do have a read if you fancy a confidence boost.
This brings me to this here stew. Fantastically rich and using a headily aromatic combination of traditional Egyptian spices to create a beautiful tangle of flavours. Just because it is inspired by Egyptian cuisine doesn’t mean you have to go on a goose chase for ingredients – the whole damn recipe can be bought in one drop in to ASDA. You’ve probably got the majority of these spices in your cupboard and not even know it.
And don’t be alarmed that the recipe starts with preheating the oven. Like I’ve detailed before, stews are for the hob – casseroles are for the oven. But here, I’m firing up the oven to put a deliciously charred snare on the courgette to ensure a delicious smokiness to them prior to throwing them in the stew.
Preheat the oven to 200C. Slice a courgette into disks and then halve them again. Throw them onto a baking tray along with a handful of dates before peppering, salting and tossing over some olive oil. Sprinkle over a little cumin and slide in the oven for 30 minutes while you get on with the rest of your stew.
In a large pot, heat a little olive oil. Add a roughly chopped white onion before adding a little salt. Cook until it starts to soften. Add a little pinch of cumin as well as some ground coriander, stir and allow to cook for another 3 minutes.
Drain a can of black eyed peas. If it’s a slightly small can, get two. I will say, I love a black eyed pea but if you don’t phunk with them (see what I did there?) then just use some chickpeas instead. Add the drained can of peas to the pan and sprinkle in a little bit of cinnamon. Stir everything together and cook for about 2 minutes.
Now pour in a can of chopped tomatoes. Do yourself up half a litre of vegetable stock (I use an OXO cube and water from the kettle – shamed) and pour some stock in the can. Swill it around and pour the tomato-y can stock into the pan. Now pour in the rest of the vegetable stock. Bring the stew to a boil before lowering to a simmer.
After it’s been simmering for the rest of the courgette’s 30 minute cooking time, remove them from the oven. Gently push the baked courgette and dates into the stew and stir. Bring back up to a gentle simmer and keep it on a gentle bubble for about 10 minutes.
Serve with some couscous if you can be arsed. I couldn’t. I ate it with bread. But I’ll recommend couscous because it’s the thing to do.