Easter. The in-between time of winter and spring. Nature waking up from the long slumber, snow beginning to melt, hope of new life budding once more.
My Easter dinners used to be a bit hit and miss for many years. I tried all sorts of things, from chicken to lamb. Lamb went out of the window that one and only time I painstakingly prepared it, only to find our then 8-year-old daughter crying her eyes out in the corner, refusing to come to the table. Amidst loud sobs, I finally got the explanation, in a tiny quivering voice: “It’s because of the little ss-hh-ee-ee-p…!” She always used to very sensitive to anything to do with particular animals, so that was the end of Easter lamb in our family. I didn’t mind as lamb has never been my favourite either!
I finally came up with our family Easter recipe back in 2007. I took our daughter to Paris for a few days during the winter holiday in February. One evening we had dinner at a Moroccan restaurant, somewhere on the “Rive Gauche”. Despite a few cockroaches squirrying on the walls, we really enjoyed the food – a rich, spicy meat and vegetable stew, served with couscous. Now, here’s a picture down memory lane, from that particular night at the Parisian restaurant (my word, how young and vulnerable she looks!).
Back home, I looked for recipes online, and with years of tweaking, this is my concoction. We even pinched the starter salad idea from the same restaurant: juice orange slices on a bed of lettuce, sprinkled with cinnamon – deliciously appetising!
INGREDIENTS (serves 3 – 4)
- 1 large onion
- 450 g of diced beef (alternatively lamb)
- 2 dl soaked chickpeas
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 3.5 – 5 dl vegetable stock
- 3 carrots
- 1 gourgette (zucchini)
- 3 potatoes
- fresh parsley and coriander (cilantro)
- 4-5 tomatoes
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2-3 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1-2 tsp turmeric
- sweet chilli sauce to taste
THIS IS WHAT YOU DO
- remember to put the chickpeas to soak in cold water the night before!
- prepare the tomato paste by mixing all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth
- if you are not keen on garlic, put less
- I use a fair helping of the chilli sauce but even a couple of tsp will do if you don’t like it spicy
- chop the onion
- heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion until nice and soft
- add the diced meat, and fry lightly
- add the tomato paste, soaked chickpeas and 3.5 dl of vegetable stock
- season with salt and black pepper to taste
- reduce the heat, and simmer for about 1 hour till the meat is nice and tender
- add the carrots, gourgette and potatoes, all cut into bite-size chunks (not too small!)
- cook for a further 30 minutes till the vegetables are done – keep adding vegetable stock if the stew seems too dry
- when done, cut plenty of green parsley and coriander on top
- prepare couscous while the vegetables are cooking
We usually enjoy this meal with some red wine although I actually find that water goes better with the chilliness and spiciness. Mind you, the taste is still rather mild, and you can easily adjust it to agree with your taste buds by reducing or increasing the amount of spices. Any leftovers can be warmed up the next day, and the flavours usually mature nicely overnight. I usually prepare a double portion, which will be enough for two days as Easter Monday is also a holiday here in Finland.
Easter is also the time of yellow daffodils, both in your home and outside.
WELCOME SPRING AND HAPPY EASTER!