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a yummy substitute for maccas: chickpea harira

I used to be a very unimaginative cook because I knew I could rely on a few unoriginal ingredients – namely meat – to satiate the people I was feeding. Pasta sauce a bit boring? Add some bacon, because everyone likes bacon. Or, say you have people coming around to dinner, what is guaranteed to please them? An old school roast – grab a leg of something, stuff it with garlic and roast it with potatoes, carrots and fresh herbs. I shied away from vegetarian cooking because I wasn’t able to rely on my old standby ingredients. Also, I guess I wasn’t willing to put a dish on the table that wasn’t guaranteed to please my audience. Ego is something every good cook needs to ditch as disasters are going to happen, even to the Nigellas and the Jamies.

Things changed drastically for me as cook when I broke down and used a large portion of my student allowance to buy myself some decent dry stores: herbs and spices, nuts, oils, canned vegetables, tinned tuna, stocks – ingredients that can transform a dish if you know what you’re doing with them. I perused many introductions in many cookbooks that included a list of pantry essentials. I took bits and pieces from each list and fashioned my own pantry of sorts. In basic terms, a well-stocked pantry can bring a dish back from the brink of boring and into the realm of delicious.

I came across a recipe a few years ago that I would’ve shied away from as a teenager (probably because it included many ingredients I’d never heard of and there wasn’t any meat in it). I tweaked it a little without the aid of bacon or any of my other standbys and made a nutritious broth that didn’t taste like raw vegetables masquerading as something more enticing. It came to be so delicious because I used an especially excellent combination of Moroccan spices.

On a funny side note, this particular broth is really delicious for breakfast. I never understood eating soup for breakfast until I went back-packing through South East Asia in my early twenties. Noodle soup of any kind first thing in the morning is glorious. I recommend you give this Moroccan Harira a go.

Chickpea Harira


Olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 litres of chicken stock
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
1 can of chickpeas, drained and thoroughly rinsed
3 handfuls of green beans, trimmed and chopped into bite sized pieces
½ cup fresh coriander, chopped
½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
Juice of 2 limes


Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and allow to heat but not colour for 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and spices and stir for one minute.

Add the celery and carrots and stir well and cook over medium heat for five minutes.

Add the stock and chickpeas and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Add the green beans and cook for a further five minutes.

Add the fresh herbs and lime juice and serve.

This recipe cooks enough serves to last for days.

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