Saturday, September 4, 2021

North African Pumpkin, Lentil and Chickpea Stew

"If you are feeling depressed in life, all you really need to do is grow things, cook things, and let nature care of you."

Joanna Lumley 

This is  a richly spiced and hearty dish originating from Morocco, where it is called Harira. Traditionally Harira is a soup, however the combination of pulses and pasta thickens this dish to  more of a vegetable stew when I make it, however I don't mind at all, as it is wholesome, nutritious, delicious and fills the spot, and is cooked in one dish. It's a winner. The flavours keep improving so that leftovers the following day are even more delicious. On the third day when we still had leftovers for a side dish and we were still loving it, I added some baked eggplant as all of the pumpkin had disappeared, and eggplant was a perfect pairing with it. So next time I make this recipe,  I'll be serving it with eggplant as well, however that is optional.

This recipe is based on another of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipes in his River Cottage series called "veg everyday". Every recipe I have cooked from this book has been successful.


Serves 6

2 tablespoons sunflower oil or rice bran oil

2 large onions, diced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely diced

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

100 g red lentils

400 g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

8 saffron strands, toasted and crushed

500 ml passata, or roasted tomato sauce (see note below for the recipe)

A good handful of parsley, roughly chopped

A large bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

300 g pumpkin or squash

1 large eggplant or aubergine(optional)

1.2 litres vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

50 g small pasta such as orzo or macaroni or use vermicelli

Medjool dates, to serve


Heat the oil in a large frypan or saucepan (I used my Scanpan) over a medium heat. Saute the onions in the oil until they just start to turn golden and translucent. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the celery, garlic, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger. Saute in the oil for a couple of minutes.

Now add the lentils, chickpeas, saffron, passata, parsley and about half the coriander.  Cook all of this over a low heat for about 15 minutes.

Whilst this is cooking,  peel and remove the seeds from the pumpkin or squash and cut into large cubes.

Add the stock, the bayleaf and pumpkin to the mixture in the saucepan, and simmer covered on a low heat, for about 30 minutes. Add the pasta and simmer until it is cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve immediately, scattered with the remaining coriander leaves an a few dates on the side if you wish to complete the Moroccan theme.

Cook's notes:

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recommends making a roasted tomato sauce and having it on hand for cooking his or any vegetarian recipes or for making a great pasta sauce. I have made it previously and it was delicious, however I haven't had enough tomatoes for a while to make a sauce but I will be making it again when I do. He says it's a River Cottage classic. I wrote a post about this sauce way back in 2016, and here is the link if you feel like cooking up a batch, it really is worthwhile.

  • Roasted Tomato Sauce. 
  • As I mentioned above as well, this recipe is delicious with baked eggplant added to the plate.

We were watching the lovely Joanna Lumley's new series, Britain, on SBS TV, which brought back lots of memories for us from when we lived for 12 months in the Lakes District in Northern England about 15 years ago. Mr. HRK did a teaching exchange in a wonderful little village called Cockermouth,  made famous by the romantic poet William Wordsworth, where he was born over 250 years ago. It was a wonderful experience and the scenery in the area is magnificent. One of the many highlights of Joanna Lumley's Britain for me was when she visited the Ladies Allotment, made famous by a group of Muslim Women in Bradford, Yorkshire, which was once the wool capital of the world in the 50's and the 60's. The ladies decided to combat their isolation and loneliness by forming a community type garden where the women could go and grow fruit and vegetables, chat, and give each other support. This has been a life saver for them as they don't venture out on their own into the community. It's not limited to Muslim women, or women from an Asian heritage, anyone is welcome, and it has been so successful it has now grown to 3 allotments. It is an inspiring story of women supporting each other.  Joanna Lumley visited them, and joined them for a meal where they ate their own produce which they cooked there, and they finished off with a delicious looking Rhubarb Cake which Joanna just had to stay for. This whole experience gave meaning to the word, Ecocentrist, which can mean happy when you are out in nature. Hence my quote at the top of this story, which was Joanna's summary of her visit to the Ladies Allotment..

"If you are feeling depressed in life, all you really need to do is grow things, cook things, and let nature care of you." I wish it was that simple, but it struck a chord with me.

Thanks for dropping by. We are enjoying beautiful Spring weather at present.

Warm wishes.


p.s. This will be a perfect meat free Monday dish.


  1. Another great recipe for me to try Pauline. Thanks heaps. I just have to buy the eggplant.

    1. Thanks Chel,I really hope you enjoyed it. It's delicious to eat over a few days when it's just the two of us.

  2. This is such a lovely dish to start the season. Love all the herbs and must have tasted amazingly delicious and satisfying.

  3. That recipe looks wonderful. I will try it soon. I found your quote and description of the community food gardens especially comforting in this time of covid isolation. It gave me a kick start to rebuild my connection with friends and community. Cheers

    1. Bernie I am so pleased you liked that story. I was so impressed the way Johanna approached that whole story, and even visited them when there were probably so many places that she could cover on the program. Keep smiling, Pauline

  4. Love Hugh’s book (and I love Harira) — though never made this. It’s time! Thanks Pauline!

  5. Thanks so much, I know you will love this recipe. Take care,Pauline

  6. This is a fun take on Harira! I love this dish, and had it often when I lived in Morocco. In winter months you'll often find it made with lamb, but this is one of those dishes where every family seems to have their own recipe. Your family has a great one! Thanks.

    1. Thanks so much KR,this is such a fun recipe to make and really delicious and versatile. I think I will be making it quite often.

  7. Gosh your recipes sound so delicious Pauline. I wish I could reach in to my screen & have a little taste test. Thank You for your visit to my blog & the sweet kind comment you left me there. Julie 😊

    1. Thanks so much Julie for taking the time to visit my blog and your kind words. It will be really nice to keep in touch on our blogs. Best wishes, Pauline.


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