A warm-hearted vegan recipe from steve clarke

This dish was introduced to me by my close friend Fliss. She learnt it when she lived in Paris, making a living as a busker with her violin, and living in a series of squats with a varied bunch of performers and artists from around the world.. Very La Boheme, and at the same time, very rich in life.

We were both at university, I was 18 at the time, and Fliss was 32. I’d never travelled at that point, and lived vicariously through the stories of her adventures. We’d spread out a newspaper on her living room floor as a tablecloth, and feast and drink, talk, laugh and philosophise.During these evenings, she introduced me to classical music, Bowie and perhaps most importantly an appreciation of spicy foods. I learned more about life in her living room than you ever could on any degree course.

Fliss and I used to make a large bowl of harrissa, and spread it on pizza bases, sandwiches, crackers – pretty much anything really, and sit and scoff them gleefully in the lecture hall. I think we developed a reputation for it. I never met any vampires when I was at University anyway, mind you, having said that…

The stew

I love how this recipe has been passed on, probably influenced from the Moroccan diaspora in Paris, to me, via a kitchen in West Yorkshire. Be liberal with everything in life, including your spices, and if you need to add some later on in the cooking, be sure to dry roast them first to activate their essential oils. One of the beauties of this dish is how quick and cheap it is to make. This recipe is going to make you a lot of food, so half the quantities if you want less, or make some space in your freezer.

I took the slow approach to this meal, and soaked and cooked my own dried chickpeas.

  • 2 cans, or equivalent of chickpeas 
  • Half a large swede chopped
  • 4 carrots chopped 
  • 2 onions chopped a good scoop of cumin an equally good scoop of coriander.
  • Veggie stock cubes x 2
  • 2 tins of tomatoes
  • 2 courgettes chopped

Dry roast the spices in the bottom of a large pan, and pre their smoke point, add a splash of oil, and the chopped onions. Fry until they soften, and are coated in the spices. Throw in all the root vegetables and chick peas, but omit the courgettes for now. Add the tomatoes, and give it all a stir. Add the stock cubes. Give it all a good stir around, and top up with boiled water until the food is covered by approx an inch of liquid. Allow it to boil, add the courgettes and then turn down to a simmer, for approx 30 mins (until the swede is fully cooked) Keep an eye on the liquidity.. I like to keep it reduced, and stew like, as opposed to a soup.

Serve this up on a bowl of steaming couscous.


If you want it to, the harrissa can blow your socks off. I’ll leave it up to you to perfect your own heat by playing around with the amounts. The caraway and mint provide an analgesic effect on your tongue into which you can smuggle more (and more) chilli and garlic. Challenge yourself to up the ante with the ingredients.

I’m particularly enjoying this batch I’ve recently made, because the chillies were grown by Fliss herself, on her small-hold in rural Ireland. A chief component is raw garlic, which has antibacterial properties and is good for your whole cardiovascular system. I’ve never trusted anyone who doesn’t like the smell of garlic, certainly not enough to want to kiss them, or be hired by them, so eat it with gay abandon, and live a little (bit longer?).

  • Heaped tablespoon of carraway seeds
  • Heaped tablespoon of dried mint 
  • A whole bulb of garlic diced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Tiny splash of oil

This dish is really simple. Mix all of the above ingredients together in a bowl, or mug. Leave it in the fridge overnight to steep. The harrissa is blobbed liberally onto the stew, and mixed in to provide heat.

- Archive post from Steve Clarke's blog