Lebanese spinach & chickpeas with preserved lemon & maftoul
Spinach is a great match for strong Middle Eastern and North African spicing. This is a hearty dish, with chickpeas, apricots and cooling yoghurt to dollop on top. It’s almost as good cold the next day as it is warm.
- 150g maftoul (or large pearl couscous)
- 500ml veg stock
- Oil for frying
- 1 onion, peeled & diced
- 1 piece preserved lemon
- 300g spinach, washed, leaves stripped from their stalks
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled & finely chopped
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp dried mint
- 1 tin chickpeas, drained (keep the tin)
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 50g dried apricots, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- Bunch of parsley, leaves chopped
- Large mint sprig, leaves shredded
- Bunch of coriander, leaves chopped
- Yoghurt to serve
- Salt & pepper
- Put a large saucepan of water on to boil.
- Put the maftoul in a separate smaller pan. Add the stock. Bring to a low boil. Cook for about 15 minutes, until just tender. Keep an eye on the liquid and top up if needs be. By the end you want almost all the liquid to be absorbed. If there’s any left, boil rapidly. Once done, keep to one side until the spinach and chickpeas are ready.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, deep frying pan. Fry the onion on a low heat for 10 minutes, until soft and translucent, stirring now and then to stop it catching. If it looks like it might, add a splash of water.
- Scoop the flesh out of the preserved lemon and discard it, then finely dice the rind (it’s this you want; the flesh is not used as it’s too salty).
- Once the pan of water boils, cook the spinach until wilted, 1-2 minutes. Drain, refresh immediately in a bowl of cold water, then drain again. Squeeze out any excess liquid (you’ll be left with a small green ball of spinach), then chop the leaves.
- Add the garlic and dried spices to the onion. Fry for 2 minutes.
- Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, apricots, preserved lemon and tomato purée. Refill the chickpea tin half full with water and add that, with three quarters of the chopped fresh herbs. Stir together then simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the chopped spinach and stir to warm through.
- Season to taste and sprinkle over the rest of the fresh herbs. Serve with the maftoul and a good dollop of yoghurt.
Organic apricots are usually unsulphured, giving them a dark brown appearance. This is quite normal, and also means they have a much more natural and intense flavour.
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