When the weather turns cold and windy, the craving for the grounding and earthy taste of root vegetables is strong. They pair beautifully with hearty chickpeas in a mustardy besan gravy for a great gluten-free and vegan main. Besides that, this stew is easy to make and a one-pot deal; great selling points when you’d rather be doing some yoga or batting the laundry than cooking. Serve it up alongside some rice and steamed greens for a complete spread that works as much for family as for any impromptu guests who might come along.
Yield: 3 to 4 servings (the recipe doubles well, so feel free to make more!)
What you need:
- 1 large onion, sliced into wedges lengthwise
- 1/2 a medium celeriac, sliced into 1/2″ wedges lengthwise, about 1-1/2 cups (if it’s organic, no need to peel, just scrub it well. if it’s a conventional grow, you probably want to peel it)
- 1/2 a medium rutabaga, peeled & sliced into 1/2″ wedges lengthwise, about 1-1/2 cups
- 6 small (baby-ish) carrots, halved lengthwise (or halved and then quartered if they’re a bit bigger)
- 1-1/4 cups cooked chickpeas
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 of a star anise (take a whole star and break it in half)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons mustard seed (black or white, they both work)
- 1/4 teaspoon nigella (also known as kalonji or onion seed)
- 2 pinches of ground allspice
- 2 tablespoons besan (chickpea flour)
- 2-1/2 cups water or unsalted vegetable broth or chickpea cooking liquid (no can juice people!) or a mix of any or all of the above
- salt and pepper to desired level
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
What you do:
- In a mortar and pestle, pound/grind together the mustard seed, nigella and allspice powder until about 1/4 of the mustard seeds are split open. You’re not going for a uniform powder but more of a coarse and uneven meal. When ready, set aside.
- Heat a thick-bottomed cooking pot, cast-iron or stainless steel preferred. When hot, add the oil, onion, bay leaf and star anise. Stir it up and stir and fry for 2 or 3 minutes until the onions start to soften.
- Add the celeriac, rutabaga and carrots to the party. Stir to coat in oil and cook until they all look sautéed to your liking. Sometimes I like them cooked darker with crusty bits on the bottom of the pot to deglaze, sometimes I like them just soft with no colour – depends entirely on my mood and the weather. Let your mood and the weather inspire your version of the stew too.
- If there are browned bits at the bottom, then add a tablespoon or two of liquid to deglaze. You can use water, white wine or a bit of stock: it’s up to you. If the veggies haven’t browned, then you won’t need to do this.
- Add the spice meal to the pan and stir to coat all the vegetables. Cook another 2-3 minutes until the spices are very fragrant.
- Now add the besan and stir. Cook and stir and cook and stir until there are no dry bits of chickpea flour anywhere. The pan will be drying out now, so you may have to lower the heat a bit.
- Add about 1/2 a cup of the liquid and stir to deglaze & integrate it smoothly with the cooked/oiled besan that’s clinging to the veggies. When the mixture is smooth, add the rest of the stock and mix well.
- Add the chickpeas and then salt and pepper to desired level (or a tiny bit more, the saltiness will mellow out a bit as things cook; or a bit less and then add a bit of tamari to the finished stew at the end if you prefer!)
- Bring everything to a boil and simmer, half-covered, until the veggies are tender. Look at the sauce, if you like it, then move on. If you want the sauce thicker, then uncover and simmer off some of the liquid at a low boil.
- When everything looks good to go, add the parsley and stir to mix. Remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes and then serve it up and dig in.