Thu. Jan 20th, 2022


Sober up to a new year, it’s time for the post-holiday summary. While you may still be nurturing in the night glow of a cinnamon-scented Christmas with games and puzzles, winter hikes and functioning families, others can take comfort in comparing war stories. The racist father-in-law, perhaps, or the passive-aggressive aunt. The outraged mother praises phones of children who come pale-eyed and upset from the screens about how Christmas is like IRL. The intoxicated uncle, inappropriate teenage cousins ​​or simply the dreaded, “So tell me, do you see anyone?” There are the fats (Brexit, vaccines), the rotten gifts (“She gave you something ?!”) and the slaughtered meal (“How can you make beef gray?”). Or maybe you just ate obscene volumes of cheese. Whatever happened, if you ended up on the dark side, it’s good to know you were not alone.

The festive aftermath has its own rituals, which tend to cut back the menu. Who is going to dry out after a very wet December? Who watched Sea inspiration and will not now eat fish? Who cares or does “Veganuary”?

Yet there is no reason why this period should not also be pleasant. D’fina is the Moroccan version of hamin or cholent. It is usually made with meat or just bones, but we prefer this vegan version a lot. If at first glance it looks simple and fairly brown, it is also a rainbow of flavor and texture in a single pot. The sweetness comes from pumpkin and fruit, the warmth and pepper of assertive spices and the richness of long, slow cooking. It is satisfying without being heavy, wholesome but not dignified. It feels good for the body, the soul and probably the planet. In short, it’s the perfect restorative remedy for whatever December has thrown at you.

© Patricia Niven

D’fina – pumpkin, quince, barley and bean overnight stew

A generous potful makes about six to eight servings of hearty stew

  1. Rinse and drain the soaked beans, then place in a large saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, froth and cook for 15 minutes before adding the barley. Cook for another 10 minutes and strain through.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare all the vegetables. Cut the pumpkin into large wedges and remove the seeds. Cut three-quarters of the wedges into large, unpeeled pieces (about 700g). Peel and cut the rest into cubes of one centimeter (about 250g).

  3. Cut two of the potatoes into large pieces, dissolve the peel, then peel the last one and cut into cubes like the pumpkin. Cut the quince or pear into wedges and remove the seeds.

  4. Mix the spices, tomato paste, date molasses, two tablespoons of oil and one liter of boiling water in a large beaker and stir to combine.

  5. Place the remaining two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large, ovenproof saucepan (one that can fit in your oven and has no plastic handles). Add the chopped onion and a sprinkle of salt, then sit on a medium-high heat and sauté for six minutes to soften a little, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped pumpkin and potato with another sprinkle of salt and sauté for another six minutes. Add the cooked beans and barley plus the remaining salt. Stir to combine.

  6. Pour enough of the liquid mixture over the barley and beans to just cover it. Remove from heat.

  7. Place all the large vegetable pieces in an even layer on top of the barley. Cover with as much of the remaining liquid as possible, keeping the rest for later. Cover with a sheet of baking paper, then the lid of the pot. Put it in a preheated oven set at 150C for two hours.

  8. After two hours, open the lid, add as much of the remaining liquid as fits, cover again and return to the oven. Reduce heat to 120C and cook overnight or for at least eight hours.

  9. When you are ready to eat, scoop out the vegetable layer on a large plate, then stir the barley and bean mixture together and set on the table. We usually serve with a few tahini or yogurt on the side.

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