I have a confession to make. For all my griping about winter approaching, I do have a soft spot for autumn. I grew up in a place where we rarely had changing seasons, like we do here, and the first time I really experienced autumnal colours is one of my most cherished memories. Autumn in England comes slowly... here in Canada it feels like the colours change overnight. I don't need to wax lyrical about autumn colours, do I really? Anyone who's seen them will know exactly what I mean when I say that they can only be described as magical.
Its strange to see the difference in autumnal shades in various parts of Canada itself. Eastern Canada glows with subtle terracottas, dark reds and chocolate browns. We, here in Alberta, get sparkling yellows, deep gold and vivid greens. Its no coincidence that this city's colours are green and gold... a walk through the river valley on a crisp autumn morning will reveal exactly this beautiful palette of colours.
Kay, Aditi and I took advantage of the beautiful Indian summer we're having right now to go for one last camping trip to Elk Island Park. The drive in is nothing short of beautiful. Its not the brash, in-your-face beauty of the Rockies... instead its a peaceful, gleaming, almost bucolic beauty that soothes your soul and makes you happy to live in the prairies. The colours in the park are stunning and make me feel blessed for living where I do, and give thanks for being able to do what I do.
Of course, what gets me really excited about autumn is, of course, the abundance of lovely produce, the root vegetables, the squashes, pumpkins and the of nature's bounty that comes along during harvest time. Despite the hailstorm, we have been lucky enough to have a wonderful crop of vegetables and fruit. We've had gazillions of potatoes and the parsnips are coming along nicely. The farmer's markets are overflowing with squashes and pumpkins of all kinds, and its just the season to make you think of warm, comforting suppers and fragrantly spiced stews.
I can't think of a better way to 'fall into autumn' than with this gently spiced autumn vegetable stew. I love the combination of fragrant Indian and Moroccan spices and to me, this is perfect make ahead dinner, for when the sun goes down and the evenings get nippy. The cinnamon in this dish makes the kitchen smell heavenly, and the sweet and spicy flavours are in perfect harmony with the season. Its an incredibly easy dish to put together and tastes even better the next day. You can easily adapt this dish to suit a slow cooker as well. If you want a meat version of this stew, I recommend slicing and frying up some spicy chorizo or Italian sausage and adding it to the stew with the chickpeas and vegetables.
I love using different kind of vegetables in this stew. I sometimes add parsnips, spinach, pumpkin, various squashes, turnips... its an easily adaptable stew that tastes delicious whatever the combination of vegetables. I served this stew with Nigel Slater's homemade flatbreads that I rubbed with a little garlic and sprinkled over some herbs. It can also be served with rice or any other Indian or Middle Eastern bread that you prefer.
Whichever way you choose make this, I can guarantee that this is one recipe that you will come back to this often over the long winters that follow autumn (now that season is something I don't look forward to... brrrr!)
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, crushed1 medium butternut or any other kind of squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup crushed tomatoes
2 - 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
540 ml tin chickpeas/ garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup hot vegetable stock
1 cup light coconut milk (125 ml)
Salt and pepper to taste
Large handful fresh cilantro, chopped, to garnish
1½ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon hot cayenne pepper (optional)
Combine the spices for the spice mix in a small bowl and keep aside.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pot, and add the onions. Fry on a gentle heat for about 5 - 7 minutes, until just beginning to colour.
Add the crushed garlic and fry for an additional 30 seconds.
Add the crushed tomatoes and the spice mix and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the spices are fragrant and have lost any lingering rawness.
Add the squash and the potatoes and stir. Fry for another 2 - 3 minutes, until the vegetables are well coated with the onion-tomato-spice mixture.
Add the chickpeas and hot stock, and cook, uncovered for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, adding a splash more hot stock, if required. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Add the coconut milk, and heat through.
Garnish with the fresh cilantro and serve hot with rice or flatbreads.