citrus blossom stew
There is this fantastic health and natural food store on Commercial Drive, called Sweet Cherubim that I frequent often. When you walk in the doors, it smells like sweet curry and intoxicating Nag Champa, mixed with rich cocoa and rose-water. It is owned by an Indian family, and they cater to the Commercial crowd, which means: organic vegetables, Indian spices and foods, yerba mate and organic tea, incense galore, fresh vegan baking, cashew and hemp butters, vegan essentials, etc. Next store they run a little cafe and serve vegetarian and vegan cuisine. I am usually in heaven when I walk in there, even though I wouldn’t consider myself a weirdo vegan or vegetarian (I had a nibble of Jay’s fall off the bone, melt in your mouth lamb a few weeks ago at a Greek restaurant and forgot how good meat is…sometimes).
I bought some orange blossom water, along with rose water, determined to find a way to use it, rather than douse it all over myself–which is nice too, by the way. A couple weekends ago, Jay and I were at Nuba in Gastown, and I noticed on the menu they were serving orange blossom scented rice and chickpeas. So I took their que and decided orange blossom water was indeed meant for ingestion and came up with this wildly weird and exotic dish.
Chana Masala Blossom Stew
- 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup red quinoa
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 tsp caraway seeds
- 1/3 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp chana masala (if you don’t have chana masala, try making your own: see below)
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- half a bunch purple kale, chopped (you can use green or black kale as well)
- 1/2 cup chickpeas, rinsed
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp orange blossom water
- 1 tsp lime juice
- 1 yellow pepper, finely diced
- 1/2 tsp maple syrup
Bring red lentils and water (plus the bay leaves) to a boil in a medium to large saucepan. Boil for 3-4 minutes, then add red quinoa. Keep boiling for a minute, then reduce heat, cover with lid and let simmer. Meanwhile, saute the onion on medium-low in some coconut oil. When the onions start to become translucent, add the channa masala, allspice and ground coriander. Stir well for a few moments, and add the balsamic vinegar and cranberries (if frozen) and stir well. You will want to reduce the balsamic vinegar a bit, cooking it along with the onions until it becomes slightly thick.
When the quinoa is cooked, add the onion and spice mixture, along with the chopped purple kale, chickpeas, orange blossom water, lime juice, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine and cover with a lid. Let the stew simmer on low until more of the water is absorbed. At the end, right before you serve, toss in the diced yellow pepper and a humble lashing of maple syrup. Serve with lime wedges.
Note: You can find orange blossom water and chana masala at Whole Foods, the Canadian Superstore or your local Arabic or Indian market.
Recipe for Chana Masala Powder:
- 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons of cumin seeds
- 2/3 teaspoons of black cardamom seeds
- 1/3 teaspoons of yellow cardamom seeds (green pods)
- 1 2/3 teaspoons of black peppercorns
- 2 – 3 dried red chillies
- 1/3 teaspoons of whole cloves
- pinch of ground ginger
- pinch of mace
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1/3 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Dry roast the seeds, peppercorns, chillies and cloves in a large frying pan over low heat until they begin to brown. Transfer to an electric coffee grinder with the ground spices and grind to a fine powder.
Makes about 1/3 cup. The recipe can be increased if you want to make a larger quantity.