Cinnamon-spiced chickpea and lentil stew is an easy-to-prepare dish that will warm you up on any chilly night. It’s easy enough to make for weeknight meals and festive enough for special occasions.
I originally devised this recipe as a vegan entrée to serve for the Jewish holiday of Purim, an occasion that’s more focused on sweets and treats than savory dishes. After all, we’ve got to eat something other than hamantaschen, right?
Of course, you need not save this dish for any particular special occasion. Like all satisfying stews, this one relies on your own palate and sense of flavor to adjust seasonings. Cinnamon and cumin are must-haves, but there’s an array of other optional spices that you can experiment with.
Because part of the story of Purim takes place in Persia (present-day Iran), it seems fitting to incorporate traditional Persian flavorings and spices into a main dish for this festive holiday. Cinnamon, a beloved spice in Persian cuisine, for example, isn’t used in savory dishes as much as it deserves to be — it adds a warm, subtly complex flavor to this stew.
A Purim tale and why this is a perfect main dish
Purim is so much about sweets and treats that planning a festive main dish can get lost in the shuffle of making hamantashen by the dozens. But following the tradition of the holiday’s heroine, Queen Esther, you just might be tempted by this simple, symbolically meaningful entrée to serve before dessert.
The story of Purim, from the Biblical book named for the beautiful young Jewish woman Esther, tells of how she was taken to the house of King Ahasuerus in ancient Persia to be part of his harem. Not knowing her identity, he fell in love with her and made her queen. Legend has it that while part of his court, she ate only legumes, grains, nuts and fruit as a way to maintain a kosher diet. She loved seeds, too—caraway and poppy in particular.
Ultimately, as we know, Esther bested the evil Haman to save the Jewish people of Persia, all while maintaining her simple diet—one we’d call plant-based today—as a way to remain true to her faith.
This recipe originally ran on The Jewish Food Experience.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
- One 28-ounce can or two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 3 cups cooked lentils (or two 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed)
- 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (try fire-roasted)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons ground cumin, to taste
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- Optional seasonings, to taste (see in Notes)
- 2 medium zucchini, diced
- 1/4 cup dry red wine, optional but highly recommended
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
- Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onions and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until both are golden, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the chickpeas, lentils, tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and optional seasonings described in the note, below. Turn up the heat; when the mixture starts to bubble, turn the heat down.
- Add the zucchini and optional wine. Cover and simmer gently with the cover ajar for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender but not overdone.
- Season with salt and pepper and add a pinch of dried hot red pepper flakes if you’d like a bit more heat.
- Stir in the parsley and serve in shallow bowls. You can also let the stew stand off the heat for 30 minutes or so to let the flavors deepen a bit more.
To enhance the traditional Persian seasonings in this dish, you can also add a pinch of any or all of the following: ground cloves, cardamom, and coriander. You can also add some grated fresh ginger and/or a few threads of saffron.
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