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leek, fennel, apple + walnut soup with turmeric

leek, fennel, apple + walnut soup // the first messapple rejects // the first messleek, fennel, apple + walnut soup // the first messingredients // the first mess
I found out that our new house was a done deal when I was at work. In the moment, I was thrilled and hugging basically everyone that entered my line of sight. The sorta stress-y negotiation bit was behind us and whoa! We would have a house soon. When my shift was done, I drove home down all of the empty country roads. I was getting ready for bed when I started feeling choked up and teary eyed. It wasn’t because of barely-containable elation either. I was overwhelmed at the thought that my life would be completely different, that the change in my day-to-day would be so great. Renovation projects would replace weekends away. Savings plans for anticipated future expenses would take precedence over any sort of prolonged travel (and certainly over a new pair of ankle boots). Our new, but seriously very old, home would demand some priority rearrangement.

That overwhelmed feeling washed away soon enough, pretty much right after a cry-fest where I told my mom that I didn’t want to “live like a gross hobo” because our creaky character home was going to bleed us dry. Everyone has assured me that these things take time and that it’s insane to try and tackle everything at once. I’m slowly beginning to accept their advice.

We got the keys last week and I’ve been working on the absolute terror of a garden/yard with my mom every day while the weather’s decent. We’ve made progress on the two years of wild neglect out there. There’s an ex-pond feature buried under piles of rocks, tarp and dirt. Grubs in the grass. Weeds that come up to my neck. Trees and shrubs so out of control. Lots of half-baked plans that need cleaning up and a fresh start. My mom is a serious badass, so we’re getting there.

There was a giant yew in front of one of the dining room windows. The house is starved for natural light and this thing was in ugly shape, so the plan was to take it down–maybe with the help of a professional. There were bees lightly buzzing around this thing when we rolled up to it one morning, so the possibility of a nest forming had entered the picture. So my mom starts trimming it down. The bees are stirring/swarming a bit more. Then she started laying into it with a hacksaw and a THIS ENDS NOW kinda vibe. I’m keeping busy cleaning up the branches when a bee lands right on my hand. Feeling the buzzz and seeing it’s little wing flicks, I yelped and leaped away, waving my hands around.

At this point my mother had sawed the entire thing down, glanced only slightly shamefully at my wussy ass, pointed a finger straight at my face, and said “You need to toughen up.” LIFE LESSON MUCH?! Told ya she was a badass.

This soup is only slightly related to the backbreaking insanity that I just described. It’s cooled off a bit, so the thought of hot soup and a crust of bread after some time spent outdoors is rather appealing. I love fennel with leeks and apples in a salad situation, all sprinkled with toasted + chopped walnuts, so I thought a warm version of that might feel just right. Turmeric is kind of an anti-bad-vibe shield for inflammation of all kinds, so a hefty spoonful of that went in for my achy muscles. It dyes the soup mustard-yellow, which is kind of cheerful in its own special way. I pre-toast the walnuts in the pan, simmer them along with the veg and purée them into the soup itself. Insane toasty walnut flavour comes through with all of the leeks, fennel and lightly sweet apple and makes the whole thing a touch creamier. Kinda awesome.

leek, fennel, apple + walnut soup // the first messleek, fennel, apple + walnut soup // the first messleek, fennel, apple + walnut soup // the first mess

leek, fennel, apple + walnut soup with turmeric
serves: 4-6
notes: Have you cooked with turmeric before? Be careful, friends. It dyes any and all things bright, acid yellow–LIKE FOREVER.

soup ingredients:
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
3 leeks, white + light green parts chopped (discard green tops or use them for stock)
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves minced
1 fennel bulb, cored and chopped (reserve a few fronds for garnish)
1 medium apple, peeled, cored + chopped
1-2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted
salt + pepper
4 cups vegetable stock

to serve:
maple syrup
fresh black pepper
reserved fennel fronds
more toasty walnuts

Heat the grapeseed oil in a large soup pot over medium. Add the chopped leeks and thyme. Stir and sauté the leeks until they are a bit soft, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped fennel and apples. Stir everything up a bit. Add the turmeric and stir to coat all of the vegetables evenly. Sauté the vegetables until the fennel is starting to soften, another 4 minutes. Add the walnuts and stir them in. Season the whole thing with salt and pepper. Add the vegetable stock and stir.

Bring the pot to a boil and simmer until all of the vegetables/apples are very soft, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat. Carefully blend the mixture in batches until totally smooth. Check the soup for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Bring the puréed soup to a boil and serve hot with drizzles of maple syrup, fresh black pepper, fennel fronds and more toasted walnuts.

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Beth Young17/10/2013 - 5:38 am

BEAUTIFUL colours! And such wonderful photography! We eat a lot of fennel in Italy so will definitely give this a go!

Harriet17/10/2013 - 7:00 am

This recipe looks so seasonally delicious (and beautiful!). Also, your story made me laugh out loud, parents are hilarious. But I bet your garden is going to be amazing!

Emma Galloway17/10/2013 - 8:55 am

LOVE this and can so relate. We bought our house (back in NZ) a few weeks before I was due with our first kid. It’s shabbiness was overwhelming, thankfully I was in full nesting mode so climbing up on shaky ladders (true story-imagine crazy big belly lady) to clean the years of cobwebs from the window frames was totally doable. The oven on the other hand was another story. It was so feral I out-right refused to clean it, or use it. The plan was to chuck it and buy a new one… until a few months later when I bit the bullet and cleaned the damn thing. Realising full well that we had no extra cash to buy a new one! You will get past this and look back and smile. You own your own home, it’s YOURS! That is super cool xx
P.s LOVING this soup.

Emma17/10/2013 - 8:58 am

Sounds like such a fun project you’re taking on. I can imagine it’s a huge amount of work but think of the perfect home you’ll have when it’s all over :)
Gorgeous soup. All flavours I love.

Sini | my blue&white kitchen17/10/2013 - 9:02 am

Oh, wow. Look at that incredible, vibrant color! I wonder if I can use fresh turmeric root instead…I’ll try!

And congrats for your new house! I’m sure it’ll turn into a lovely home.

Ashley17/10/2013 - 9:57 am

Congrats on the house!! I can completely relate to this post, except for the part where your mom chops down trees. :) For the past 2.5 years we’ve had never-ending projects and are now on to old house #2. It’s intense but rewarding. The hardest part is for me is feeling like I want it to all be done right now. We just want to feel settled! I’ve gotten over that with the “new” house but am still itching to be able to unpack everything. Slow + steady. xoxo Now, soup me, please!

Kulsum17/10/2013 - 10:08 am

I think you shall make your house beautiful just like this soup. I have many (MANY) turmeric stained wooden spoons and your photo reminded me of that. ah!

ana17/10/2013 - 12:20 pm

My mum is almost as badass as yours ;-)
Amazing idea for the soup! I got used to having yellow stains around my kitchen. Gotta love that root!

Reesa17/10/2013 - 1:22 pm

Beautifully written post, and gorgeous looking soup! Not the sort of thing I’d usually make (I find leeks fussy and don’t loooove walnuts), but you’ve definitely inspired me! You’re so tough out there, it makes me want to try something new. I bet I’ll be glad.

ebie17/10/2013 - 2:28 pm

Congrats on the home! My dude and I also recently bought a little fixer-upper; we’ve been showering outdoors for two months now while we painstakingly correct 70 years of bad tile, uneven wall studs and poor ventilation in the one and only bathroom. We completed the last touch last night — refinishing the chipped-up vintage tub with a totally noxious epoxy — and when it’s officially cured in three days, and we can finally shower indoors again, I believe I’d like to celebrate with this soup. (It’s about time, too, because the romance and novelty of showering outside is quickly wearing off as really cold weather sets in!)

Juliette17/10/2013 - 3:39 pm

Congratulations on your new home!! Your mom sounds like an amazing badass person =)

Kathryn17/10/2013 - 5:27 pm

Love the sound of your new pad; so much character and life in it. This soup is totally perfect too, bright and rich and flavoursome and good.

Claire (Eat Well. Party Hard.)17/10/2013 - 8:09 pm

“You need to toughen up.” Daaaaaamn, life lesson indeed! Huge congrats and best wishes as the new adventure gets underway :)

Jenn Radford17/10/2013 - 11:23 pm

Reading about your combined fear/excitement about buying your own house totally struck a chord with me! The elation from being told that you “won” to the intense reality of So. Much. Debt is a roller coaster. 2 years after my house buying, my garden is still a bit of a shambles, but it’s home.

I’ve been loving your blog for a while now, I am in Australia, so I have to store all your recipes upside down so the seasons suit me better. We’ve had a realyl mild start to our Spring on the West Coast, so I will probably give this recipe a try on the weekend anyway!

Fresh and Foodie18/10/2013 - 11:26 am

I am dying over this photography. I’d seriously hang that soup on my wall. Wow.

Stacy18/10/2013 - 2:44 pm

Priorities! Savings! Adulthood! It’s tough stuff, this living-life business. I’m with you. Every time things seem to be running smoothly, or the hard stuff has been sorted out momentarily, something new comes up. Good thing we have soup, and soothing tasks like gardening, and mothers and mentors to push us to be a bit more bad ass ourselves. xoxo

Jacqui18/10/2013 - 5:07 pm

We bought our house about 1 1/2 years ago. Our house is pretty old too and your yard sounds just like the disarray that ours was in! But it’s coming along, inside and out. It always seems daunting the tasks to do, but I still get excited every time we start something new. Gorgeous soup!

sandra18/10/2013 - 8:24 pm

I made this dish and it was fabulous – you can see mine over at

ara20/10/2013 - 10:34 pm

Just made this for my mom last night with curry powder instead of plain turmeric and it was amazing! She asked for the recipe and I can’t wait to make it again :) Thank you!

[…] while other lentils will get a bit mushy. At the top of my “to try” list is this leek fennel apple and walnut soup, also from The First Mess. The unique flavor combination (not to mention the gorgeous photo) caught […]

Ian11/11/2013 - 9:56 pm

Great story and amazing photos you post on your blog. This recipe in particular looks like something that will taste amazing this time of year. It’s funny how the palette changes with the seasons. The flavors of apple, fennel, and leek are so bold yet seem to complement each other well. Can’t wait to make this!

Diana15/11/2013 - 8:07 am

I saw this recipe in my inbox and made it the same day. It’s a lovely soup and my husband enjoyed it very much. I topped it with home made croutons!

slywlf15/11/2013 - 10:12 am

Oh my that was fun – and funny! And I can so relate to the panic/elation conundrum, as I am in the final stages of selling my home/business of 10 years and moving to a serious fixer-upper with a dear friend who has been my rock since my husband died. She sounds a lot like your mother – a dynamo who never says never ;-)
I was referred here by 101 Cookbooks and I’m so glad I came! Sounds so delicious – you now have a new RSS subscriber ;-)
As for turmeric staining – hoo boy don’t I know it! I was turned on to warm turmeric milk by another site, and quickly discovered how that stuff will stain anything it comes in contact with! The one thing I have found that helps is as soon as you can pat a paste of baking soda and water on the spot(s) and leave it. Success will depend on the material involved; stainless steel and glass will eventually come clean – plastic and counter laminate …. not so much – oh well – I like yellow ;-)

Audrey15/11/2013 - 5:00 pm

I just made this. I used roasted almonds instead of walnuts, and added a parsnip instead of leeks, stirred in some kale at the end, then topped it with a bit of honey, pepitas and greek yogurt and a dash of curry powder. Soooo delish! Thanks for the inspiration.

teague17/11/2013 - 2:45 am

Your mom sounds awesome! It’s always nice to have someone to share some tough love every once in a while, and then a big bowl of soup to cheer you up after! Looks delicious!

Haley - egginon23/11/2013 - 8:30 pm

Wow this looks so so delicious! Perfect for chilly fall days!

[…] The original recipe I found here. I tweaked it a bit. […]

[…] This flavour combination sounds fantastic: leek, fennel, apple, and walnut soup  […]

Katie @ Whole Nourishment30/11/2013 - 2:09 pm

I made this for lunch today to go with a beluga lentil salad. It was simple to throw together and so delicious. The walnuts add a wonderful body and the yellow color from the turmeric is beautiful.

Bartek14/12/2013 - 4:13 pm

Today was our first major snowfall here in Toronto. This soup was warming and it reminded me of autumn, although excited for tobogganing and the winter like, this was lovely :) Thank you.

[…] Suppe war eine Lauch-Fenchel-Walnuss-Suppe, die ich am Dienstag schon gekocht hatte und die ich zusammen mit ein paar extra Adukibohnen in den […]

[…] Leek Fennel Walnut + Apple Soup with Turmeric by, The First Mess […]

[…] Imagen / Imagen […]

[…] leek, fennel, apple + walnut soup with turmeric – a bright yellow and comforting wintry dish perfect for warming our guests […]

[…] Leek, fennel, apple and walnut make up the simple ingredients in this vegan meal. (via The First Mess) […]

roasted romanesco curry with lemongrass + marcona almonds

romanesco curry with lemongrass + marcona almonds // the first messromanesco curry with lemongrass + marcona almonds // the first messromanesco curry with lemongrass + marcona almonds // the first mess
I had huge plans to do a 4-5 day juice feast/fast this week, I was almost treating it like no big thang. I’ve done it before and it felt like my body was kind of hankering for it. “We have tons of greens in the garden and a tree full of apples. I’ll only need a couple things. It’ll be sooooo easy.” I had ramped up my consumption of raw fruit and veg in order to ease into it and then… it was the weekend.

Lots of driving around with Mark for new house stuff, lining all the things and services up, road snacks + coffees, thoughts of demolishing the kitchen completely and follow-up, dread-tinged thoughts of assembling IKEA cabinets with an Alan key and hopefully a beer nearby, stressing about the heap of things to move and the mere existence of the heaps of things. I’ve purchased a preparatory economy-sized bag of chia seeds, a party box of wine glasses, various hydrangeas, and a new food processor. We still don’t have a bed. Packing up your life and moving onto a new thing. Throwing work into the mix and all of those other weird things like trying to get an adequate amount of sleep. It’s a lot. One week from today until it’s really real. Five days of liquified vegetables have to wait.

And, kind of hilariously, I’ve been beating myself up over it. Every snack and meal has been inwardly justified by a need to build up some energy stores (or whatever you’re building up when you’ve been eating hella chocolate-covered raisins). We managed to get a lot of things checked off the list over the weekend, but there was still plenty of salty snack eating while we marathoned The League on the couch. Oh, and that night I came home way past my usual dinner time after spending a whole day road-snacking and made myself a huge bowl of pasta and promptly went to sleep afterward. Totally not my style. Totally was thinking about my dashed plans for juicy-ness, mostly guilt-tripping myself over it and not getting any closer to that “Whooo-ey, so detoxed and vibe-y” feeling.

All of that stuff is so dumb though. It’s just life happening at the pace of life. Sure, a juice fast might help me rule the world a little bit more, but knowing when and how to prioritize certain things is going to keep me in a better spot long-term. So I stopped believing my own bullshit and started focusing on being here and being completely okay with being right here. This article from Kate Bartolotta, guys. Pro tip: read it.

I ate something like this when we were in NY (along with, yes, lots of excellent green juices). It was a little starter/small plate, but it was easily my favourite thing of the whole trip. Just perfectly steamed cauliflower with a super refined coconut-milk based curry sauce at the base of the plate and crunchy bits on top. I knew I could fix that up with ease at home and add a few personal preference-driven changes. I bust up the romanesco into large-ish pieces and roast them for a bit of golden crust. I fix up the curry sauce portion like I normally would, but strain it out to keep it easy on the eating front. The pieces are bathed in that rich, fragrant, and lightly golden sauce. As you cut them up, you can kind of drag the pieces through the curry, maybe throw some cooked grain into the mix if you like. Anyway, it’s easy and warming. Total feel-good eats for right now.

romanesco // the first messromanesco curry with lemongrass + marcona almonds // the first messromanesco curry with lemongrass + marcona almonds // the first mess

roasted romanesco curry with lemongrass + marcona almonds
serves: 3-4 as a main + maybe 6ish as a side?
notes: If you decide to steam this for that more pure + virtuous vibe, place them in your steamer basket and let ‘em go for about 9-11 minutes. Remove them from the basket and give the pieces a nice sprinkle of salt and pepper before you pour the sauce around.

1 head of romanesco, busted up into large-ish pieces and florets
grapeseed, coconut or other heat-tolerant oil
salt + pepper
decent knob of coconut oil
1 sliced shallot or 1/4 cup sliced red onion
1 mild hot pepper, halved + seeded
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled + sliced
peel of 1 lime (remove as much pith as you can)
handful of cilantro stems
1 piece of lemongrass, bashed up a bit with your knife
1-2 tsp ground turmeric
1 can of full fat coconut milk
2 tsp coconut sugar
big handful of marcona almonds
chopped cilantro
+ cooked quinoa/rice/millet for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and place the romanesco pieces on top. Brush all of them with oil and sprinkle salt + pepper on all of the pieces evenly. Roast the romanesco in the oven for about 25-35 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

While the romanesco is roasting, start making the curry sauce-y bit. Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots/red onions and sauté them until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the hot pepper and ginger. Stir it about. Add the lime peels, cilantro stems, lemongrass and turmeric. Sauté and stir the whole mix for a few minutes to cook out the raw-ness of the turmeric. Pour in the coconut milk and stir to evenly mix the turmeric throughout. Stir in the coconut sugar. Bring the sauce to a boil and then simmer it for about 10 minutes. Season the whole thing to your liking and then strain out all of the chunky bits.

To serve, arrange the roasted romanesco on a serving platter or individual plates. Pour the curry sauce around the florets. Garnish with the marcona almonds and chopped cilantro. Serve with cooked grains if you wish.

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thecitygourmand03/10/2013 - 4:48 am

A nice, thoughtful post. I’m glad you’re happy with your meal choices because they look amazing. We’d be hard pressed to find romanesco broccoli here in Australia!

Danielle03/10/2013 - 5:58 am

Mmm, sounds fantastic and simple. I agree that “knowing when and how to prioritize certain things” is key, but it’s a constant assessment and re-assessment to find that balance. We’re only human :) and the article you linked to is the perfect reminder to revel in that.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar03/10/2013 - 6:29 am

This curry looks soooo good! Yum!

Abby @ The Frosted Vegan03/10/2013 - 8:02 am

Annnnd but of course you have hit it out of the park..again! I hear your words about the believing your own bullshit. Come now, life is wayyyy too short to fret about that shiz, just eat pasta, sleep, and be happy!

thelittleloaf03/10/2013 - 8:21 am

That article is brilliant. Also, so are your photos. I absolutely love the one with the spoons. Gorgeous post Laura.

Ali @ Inspiralized03/10/2013 - 8:45 am

You are incredibly talented. Your recipes are amazing and your photography makes it look that much better. I wish one day I could take as beautiful photographs as you do! What camera/lens do you use for photos like this?

Elvira03/10/2013 - 11:32 am

This recipe is so inviting! They way you transform a humble ingredient like the broccolo romanesco is a delight for taste and eyes. Your blog is just beautiful. A presto! :)

Chelsea//TheNakedFig03/10/2013 - 11:36 am

I just posted yesterday about similar anxiety with my juice fast last week. Glad to know I’m not alone in some of my feelings about it. If it turns in to something that makes you feel bad about yourself, let it go. It will be there when we are ready for it.

In other news, this looks DIVINE! I can’t wait to try it. I love love love romanesco and curries. You are brilliant and inspiring.

love and light,

Katie @ Produce on Parade03/10/2013 - 2:07 pm

Wow, what an absolutely beautiful dish! Lovely!

Lindsey03/10/2013 - 2:20 pm

Sometimes the best stuff in life can be so ridden with anxiety that it’s hard to look past, and enjoy the times in life that are full of excitement and joy. It’s not always the easiest balancing act. I’ve never made curry. My husband and I have both had a very negative experience when we had it in a restaurant. But I totally love the flavors here; looks light and beautiful!

Emily von Euw03/10/2013 - 7:18 pm

Oh, how I missed you.


Sophia04/10/2013 - 5:50 am

Thanks for the link to the NYT article – really enjoyed reading it.

I tend to plan similar things like your juice fast when life gets a little crazy – like ramp up mileage big time the week I am moving house, plan to hit the gym at least 5 times when I know work will keep me in the office past midnight most days and leaving me with too little sleep as it is – I think it’s may subconscious way of trying to regain control when life gets a little out of hand and stressful and when the best thing to do would actually just to give myself a break and make sure I am being kind to myself and my body and maybe leave the intense exercise regimen, diet etc until a time when things are quieter again. That being said, I think this dish is the perfect way of being kind to yourself when life gets a bit hectic – now that temperatures are dropping, I have been enjoying a few similar bowls and they are so delicious, the mix of vegetables, some crunch and some grains when I feel hungry or leafy greens when I want something a little lighter is perfect. I like serving these bowls with some grated cucumber and lime on the side – the acidity from the line and the cool crunch from the cucumber pairs incredibly well with these kind of curries (out of all places, I picked this up from a chain restaurant in London!).

PS I love the ingredient shot, absolutely stunning.

Sara04/10/2013 - 8:42 am

Made this recipe last night substituting regular almonds, basil and increasing the pepper content and loved it. Served with lentil buckwheat kashi. Thanks for the inspiration.

dishing up the dirt04/10/2013 - 12:01 pm

Lovely post. Beautiful recipe!

The Cheerful Kitchen06/10/2013 - 2:45 pm

This is so delightfully simple and gorgeous! I often read curry recipes and think, “I won’t be making that because it has seven ingredients I’m not buying just for this one dish,” but this recipes is accessible and sounds absolutely delicious.

Gintare @Gourmantine08/10/2013 - 4:28 pm

The 4-5 days juice feast sounds quite tough to be honest, but glad to hear you’re taking it easy on yourself. After all, life is meant for enjoying to the fullest :)
By the way, the recipe sounds absolutely delightful and your photos are jut stunning!

I would also find happiness in following up eating hella chocolate covered raisins with a perfect platter of this glorious dish! Good luck with your move.

Kasey08/10/2013 - 11:42 pm

I’ve only recently discovered romanesco and I’m sold! I always *intend* to meal plan or do a week of really good, clean eating, but things always tend to get in the way (like my out-of-control carb addiction…) In any case, I hope that the move goes smoothly and you get around to that juice fest ;) In the meantime, this sounds lovely. x

Ashley10/10/2013 - 9:29 am

Yup. To all of it. xo

sarah10/10/2013 - 11:32 pm

I appreciate you so much. All kinds of things I needed to hear in this post.
What beautiful photographs! xo

[…] for beautiful pictures, I had to make this dish as an adaptation from Laura’s recent post on The First Mess.  The mild flavor of the romanesco screams to be added to a curry. It absorbs the flavors of the […]

Irina @ wandercrush12/10/2013 - 2:58 am

So much simple truth in that article.
I remember the first time I saw romanesco at the farmer’s market, I felt like the mutant veg gods had smiled upon me that day. I guess not much has changed, aside form the mutant association :) Beautiful photos, as always. I love Brassicaceae with nutty accompaniments!

dervla14/10/2013 - 10:51 pm

your photography! to die for.

sara forte15/10/2013 - 11:30 am

Good luck, lady! I HATE moving. I mean, maybe if it was into a place I owned and was thrilled to make it “ours” I would be excited, but the whole transport your life deal makes me a crazy lady. It may be me mad I keep collecting shit when I say I am not a collector of shit. I’m just not a fan. I am however a fan of, like you said, not listening to your own bullshit. I keep a nugget from Cheryl Strayed’s book about not listening to the voices that are telling you lies and negative things, it’s essentially bullshit. You are a wise woman and we’re all guilty of getting caught in it. Best of luck in the process, miss. Juice will be on the other side.

Beth Young16/10/2013 - 6:10 am

Lovely colour combinations! This looks like it’s one of those things that is so colourful that it MUST be really good for you too!

Kimberley16/10/2013 - 2:08 pm
Cara18/10/2013 - 1:52 pm

So lovely. I look forward to romanesco coming into the markets every year, but I never do anything more exciting with it than a simple roast. I’m so excited to try this recipe! You’re the best.

slywlf15/11/2013 - 10:35 am

This line “stressing about the heap of things to move and the mere existence of the heaps of things” totally had me rolling with laughter, as it totally sums up my life at the moment ;-) My move is less than two weeks away, and even after getting rid of so much stuff my local thrift store couldn’t take any more I still have too much stuff! The Salvation Army is going to be very pleased (I hope!) on my next trip to town! My decision was to go for a more Zen lifestyle in my new home, so I am eliminating anything that doesn’t fit the criteria ‘do I absolutely love it or do I absolutely need it?’ – if it doesn’t fits it gits! So far I have eliminated 90% of my books (sacrilege!) and about the same of my CDs and DVDs, all of my VHS and most of my LPs. As soon as I get closer to D-Day – departure day ;-) – I will take the last of my winter clothes to the thrift store. After all, I am leaving the Catskill winters behind in favor of Florida – yay!!!
Now I need to find some romanesco – the last time I saw some at my farm stand it was –well — kinda sad looking – not very appetizing. If I can’t find any I’ll try it with cauliflower and/or regular broccoli as it looks too yummy not to make ;-)

[…] 2. Roasted Romanesco Curry with Lemongrass + Marcona Almonds from The First Mess […]

Jan Plotkin31/03/2014 - 7:32 pm

Beautiful dish! I am making it tonight. Our local Coop did not have romanesco today, so I am going to substitute cheddar cauliflower (orange color) and broccoli. I love the simplicity of this dish and we will eat it with some free range, stir fried chicken and fresh cilantro. Thanks for sharing such beautiful and tasty dishes with all of us!

moroccan-style vegetable + chickpea stew

moroccan-style vegetable + chickpea stew // the first messmoroccan-style vegetable + chickpea stew // the first messpulling carrots // the first messkale in the garden // the first mess
You can file this one under “stuff I actually make with frequency.” Most of the time I just have an idea in an offhand sort of way and it ends up here. Then there’s that pile of old reliables that I make all the time, without even thinking that maybe they could be awesome and fun-wow for you guys too. So we’re gonna try that today. We got back from New York the other night and I think I’m still full? I really wanted the ritual of a leisurely, stew-centered afternoon though, just to usher in this fall thing properly and to get back into the rhythm of everyday living. The air smells like crushed grape skins and crunchy, slowly-fading leaves at night. I got myself a new mug for all those hot beverages and our apple tree is killing it out there right now. Give me all of your autumn leaf emojis, people. We are READY over here.

Also perhaps you’ll notice some boxed stock and canned items in the photo below? The first time I accidentally flipped on the TV to an episode of Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade, she was fixing up a little pot of soup. I didn’t know the premise of the show at this point, so I kept watching. You know what that braud did? She mixed a quart-box of tomato soup with a jar of salsa, simmered that shit, and called it MEXICAN TOMATO SOUP. I mean… this is a little different–it’s a little more on that ACTUAL homemade tip. I’m not exactly steady-jarring my own tomatoes and simmering stock when I have a spare couple of hours (HA!). Generally I say (legit) homemade is better on all fronts, but when you’ve got yourself a stew goin’ with lots of vegetables and spices, those subtleties are less noticeable I think. I keep a decent supply of low-sodium veggie stock, tinned tomatoes (preferably sans BPA in the can’s lining) and beans for when I’m in a pinch/don’t wanna wait. That’s how this little number came about and now I’ve got lunch for a week. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that wholesome pantry crutches are awesome, and that Miss Sandra is not my fave human being on the planet. That’s all.

But on this stew thing! The first time I had a bit of a fancier, totally vegan dining experience, I ate something like this. I read “sweet potatoes, warm spices, smoky tomatoes, wilted greens etc etc,” on the menu and knew that it was going to change my life. Yep, totally did. It was familiar, unusual, comforting, new, exciting… and it came with an adorable scoop of purple rice pilaf. And there was really good organic wine. Shortly afterward I was sold on the whole plant-based way of life and not too long after that, I figured out how to make this supreme comfort food all by my badass self. I might even say that my version is better than that first time memory. I add chopped dates and a little lemon zest, go heavy on the warm spices–the cinnamon is the best part–and I utilize one of my fave pantry items: fire roasted crushed tomatoes. Yeah dudes. Gettin’ real cozy up in here.

preppinpreppinmoroccan-style vegetable + chickpea stew // the first messmoroccan-style vegetable + chickpea stew // the first mess

moroccan-style vegetable + chickpea stew
serves: makes a big pot
notes: I like to slowly cook the onions and spices out in the oil before I add everything else, almost stewing them in a way. The raw-ness of the spice goes away and the onions melt into the soup in a special luxurious kind of way.

stew ingredients:
big knob of coconut oil
1 medium onion, small dice
2-3 tsp ground cinnamon
1-2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp ground coriander
chili flakes (optional)
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 dates, pitted + chopped
2 carrots, chopped (1/2 inch pieces)
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled + chopped (1/2 inch pieces)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
3 cups vegetable stock (or more, depending)
1 yellow pepper, stemmed and chopped (1/2 inch pieces)
2 cups (or a 14-15 ounce can) cooked chickpeas
salt + pepper
couple handfuls of chopped greens

to serve:
chopped flat leaf parsley/cilantro
fine grated lemon zest
extra virgin olive oil
cooked brown rice/quinoa/millet/couscous

Heat the coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and lower heat until they are sizzling kind of quietly. Once the onions are a bit soft and translucent, add the cinnamon, cumin, coriander and chili flakes. Slowly sauté and stir this mix until the onions are really, really soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped dates, carrots and sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat the vegetables in the spices and oil. Add the tomatoes and stir. Add the vegetable stock. Bring the soup to a boil and simmer until the sweet potatoes are just tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Add the chopped yellow peppers and chickpeas and stir the soup. Season the whole thing again with salt and pepper. Simmer until the yellow peppers are tender and the sweet potatoes are quite soft, about 5 minutes. Add the greens to the pot (and more stock if necessary) and cook for 1 minute, or until just-wilted. Check the soup for seasoning and serve it hot with cooked grains, drizzles of olive oil, lemon zest and chopped herbs.

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Emma26/09/2013 - 5:17 am

I posted a very similar recipe just yesterday- My red lentil + root vegetable tagine! I love the fragrant spices and sweetness from the dried fruit.

Harriet26/09/2013 - 5:18 am

I have a similar recipe in regular rotation during the cooler months, but I think yours might be better! I love the Moroccan combo of lemon, cinnamon and tomato. Also adding dried fruit to anything is guaranteed to make it doubly delicious! Big pot meals for the win :)

Danielle26/09/2013 - 5:27 am

This is so, so perfect for cooler weather! Thank you. I love how Moroccan(-inspired) cuisine combines sweet and savory so deliciously.

Kristen26/09/2013 - 7:09 am

This looks way better than the version sold at Urban Herbivore…and it doesn’t come with a side of hipster abuse!

Lana26/09/2013 - 7:49 am

Have you done a post on kitchen gear? If so….I’ve missed it :). I’d love to see the pots, pans, baking sheets, etc etc. I make do with what I’ve accumulated over time, but I’d love to know what you’d recommend to have if I purposefully shopped for an excellent kitchen set-up :)

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar26/09/2013 - 7:57 am

I love a good stew like this – especially in fall. Looks lovely!

Claire (Eat Well. Party Hard.)26/09/2013 - 7:57 am

“She mixed a quart-box of tomato soup and a jar of salsa, simmered that shit, and called it MEXICAN TOMATO SOUP.”

Tha fuck is this shit??

On a happier note, it’s rad that you added dates to this dish. Sweet in savory = win every time.

Laura Wright26/09/2013 - 8:14 am

Hey Lana! I’m thinking of doing something like that, along with a pantry basics kind of thing when I move into the new house. So possibly soon! :)

Abby @ The Frosted Vegan26/09/2013 - 8:43 am

This kind of stew is my absolute favorite! I love the spice, the veggies, the depth, oh my! Lovely pictures as always Laura!

Reeve26/09/2013 - 9:11 am

Oh. my. goodness. Looks so yummy! Will definitely be trying this one once I’m back home. perfect start to fall!

Ashlae26/09/2013 - 9:11 am

Hellllll yes. I had a high vibe vegan stew at a biergarten (OF ALL PLACES) and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since. Super bummed I won’t have a proper kitchen to make this for a couple more months – but I know there’s a can of fire roasted tomatoes tucked away in a box labeled “pantry” just waiting to rage with chickpeas and sweet potatoes and cozy spices.

Ashley26/09/2013 - 9:32 am

This is absolutely wonderful!!! That first photo is killer. I also agree about the fire roasted tomatoes. They just add so much! This sounds like the exact thing I want in my belly for lunch…and dinner..for the next month. So glad you were able to take a little breather between vacation + work/life when you got home. xo

The Peace Patch26/09/2013 - 9:34 am

zowie that looks so temptingly delicious! I love dates and cinnamon in anything and chickpeas too and ohgoodgolly it’s all together in one!
Purple rice pilaf…that is so intriguing. Not that this needs it, but purple rice just sounds like a bowlful of fun. ;)

Mariela26/09/2013 - 9:54 am

Love it! I might just have to make this tonight.

dishing up the dirt26/09/2013 - 10:25 am

It has finally gotten cool enough here to enjoy hearty food like this! This is my favorite kind of stew. The right amount of spice packed full of veggies. Love it!

grace26/09/2013 - 10:35 am

Oh golly that Sandra Lee! This video never gets old for me:
Your soup looks absolutely delicious. I shared the link around the office so I could drool over the pictures with my coworkers and it’s not even lunchtime yet!

Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence26/09/2013 - 10:42 am

Ahhhh Sandra Lee. You can always count on her for a good laugh. Like in this video: All joking a side, this soup looks lovely :) It’s fall and I’m ready for some SOUP!

Stacy26/09/2013 - 10:47 am

This looks FANTASTIC. Another winner, my friend. (: I am all about ushering in fall with this sort of coziness, and the flavor combinations sound absolutely delicious. I’ll be making this for sure!

mich26/09/2013 - 10:53 am

Baby, you’ve got a stew going!

Seriously though, this looks great. Wondering if one could sub other dried fruit for the dates – dried apricots, raisins etc…?

Laura Wright26/09/2013 - 10:58 am

Michelle! I’ve made this with dried apricots and currants too. Way tasty any old way you go really :)

Nicola Galloway26/09/2013 - 11:36 am

I love the combo of spices used in Moroccan cooking. Will have to try this. Beautiful bowl you have served the stew in.

S26/09/2013 - 11:48 am

Thinking about making a double batch to have on hand for those harried weeknight dinners. Do you think it would freeze well (with the greens omitted)

Meredith @ Live Local Greens26/09/2013 - 2:28 pm

I will DEFINITELY be making this! Love hearty stews in Autumn and Moroccan flavours are the bomb! I actually just posted a Morrocan-y vibed recipe on my blog yesterday too! Thank you for sharing one of your fave dishes :)

Laura Wright26/09/2013 - 3:08 pm

Hi S! I freeze this stew all the time (without the greens as you said) :)

Christine26/09/2013 - 6:01 pm

This is exactly what I want now that it’s getting a little chilly out at night. Looks so lovely! I think I saw Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes in your picture. Where did you find those?! Whenever I am in big cities in the US (NYC, Boston) I always stop by Whole Foods and pack them away in my suitcase because I’ve never been able to find them here in Niagara. But maybe you have?

Renata26/09/2013 - 6:24 pm

OMG! I just finished cooking this amazing Moroccan Stew and prepared some couscous with it, we absolutely love it. Thank you for this recipe! ❤️

Laura Wright27/09/2013 - 8:08 am

Hi Christine, I always buy the Muir Glen tomatoes over at Wegman’s in Niagara Falls NY/Amherst when we make a trip over. They’re truly the best.

Kelly27/09/2013 - 12:19 pm

Is it possible to throw all these fab ingredients in the slow cooker? Im not lazy… but sometimes I am. And this sounds really delish…thoughts?

Laura Wright27/09/2013 - 3:39 pm

Hey Kelly, I think you might be able to… Maybe leave out the cooked beans and greens until closer to the end of cooking time though. I don’t have much experience with slow cookers, so have no idea what speed, time etc you would have to apply… Let me know how it goes if you try it out! :)

Kathryn27/09/2013 - 3:56 pm

I pretty much want to eat this and nothing else for the rest of time. Love that spicy smoky sweetness and all that goodness.

Hannah27/09/2013 - 4:54 pm

I love the Muir Glen tomatoes but have never tried the fire roasted. If/when you have kids you might find that tinned tomatoes, ‘stock helpers’ and canned beans become much more regular players in your kitchen – and a recipe like this one will be even more beloved. I can’t wait to try it, myself.

Emily27/09/2013 - 5:25 pm

Made this last night, so good!

Sophie28/09/2013 - 8:18 pm

I made this for dinner. It was heavenly! The left overs were even better. Thanks for the recipe.

Musette #1 | Flossy's Fuel01/10/2013 - 7:52 am

[…] This hearty stew would be perfect after hard day of rainy, muddy, chilly cyclocross racing. Hot shower, cold beer, and this stew–perfect end to an awesome day! […]

stacey snacks01/10/2013 - 5:35 pm

Oh my! I made this tonight for dinner (minus the yellow pepper), and served over couscous w/ fresh cilantro.

AH-MAZING! No meat missed in this house tonight!
Thanks, will be re-posting soon.


Kelly02/10/2013 - 7:23 pm

Laura – I skipped the slow cooker. This stew is amazing. Thank you for the recipe!!

Kate Barton03/10/2013 - 5:18 pm

Oh my goodness! Yum! I really loved this recipe! Thank you for all your recipes, I am on an anti-inflammatory diet and your recipes have been a lifesaver.

dervla @ the curator14/10/2013 - 10:50 pm

Laura!!! This stew needs to be in my life right now. Gorgeous and stomach warming.

Holly16/10/2013 - 10:03 pm

Delicious! Thank you so much for a wonderful recipe. I added pine nuts, fresh halved cherry tomatoes and cilantro to serve. The pine nuts are a great addition.

[…] exponentially, and I was finally able to scratch one meal off my list by whipping up a batch of Moroccan-Style Vegetable and Chickpea Stew from The First Mess. I added in a bay leaf, a shake of both paprika and chili powder, and half a […]

stacey snacks03/11/2013 - 5:26 pm

Here it is. Made it 3 times so far…..SO GOOD!
Thank you!

Lana11/11/2013 - 9:37 pm

I made this tonight for my weekly soup lunch stash. Oh man, the flavours are so intense! Love the idea of the rice on top, too. Perfect for the first snowfall of the year.

Maggie19/11/2013 - 7:24 pm

I seriously survive off of this stuff. My very favorite thing to make in the fall. The flavors are perfectly cozy and comforting. I ate it for breakfast this morning at work and got some looks, but I don’t care if people judge me for having stew for breakfast. It’s just that good.

Petra20/11/2013 - 3:29 pm

Hi, made one based on your recipe yesterday (cooked chickpeas myself, no dates but raisins, no pepper as I did not have one, herbs was fresh coriander), served it with basmati cooked with couple of cardamon pods, stick of cinnamon and teaspoon of whole cumin tossed with caramelized onions and more raisins. Looked great, smelled great, tasted great and was really healthy. Very pleased. Will read more of your recipes for some inspiration since I love cooking, too.

[…] etc) and use of Mediterranean fruits and vegetables. I found this recipe via the fabulous food blog The First Mess and wanted to share. This dish boasts incredible flavor and really hits the spot on a cold […]

Lois gagnon06/12/2013 - 12:56 pm

This looks delicious and I’m going to make it, but it would be nice to have a printer friendly version without the pictures.

Laura Wright06/12/2013 - 1:14 pm

Hi Lois, I haven’t found a “print recipe” plug-in option that I’m happy with yet. I am working on this though. In the meantime, if you would like to print the recipes without pictures, you could always copy the text and then paste it into a word processor.

Luz02/01/2014 - 8:17 pm

I made this for dinner tonight with some changes due to a dwindling pantry. I didn’t have coriander, crushed tomatoes, dates, stock, greens, or yellow pepper. I added more cinnamon and cumin, fresh chopped tomatoes, well salted water, bay leaf, and lastly green and red bell peppers. It was AMAZING. This was really easy, filled the apartment with a wonderful aroma. My 19-month old loved it with some rice. I will definitely be making this again, I can’t imagine how good it will be with all of the ingredients. Thank you very much for the lovely recipe!

[…] Haricots Verts, Mushrooms, & Cronions by Tasty Trix No-Meat Guinness Stew by The Curvy Carrot Moroccan-Style Vegetable + Chickpea Stew by The First Mess Vegetarian Pichuberry Quinoa Chili by Peru […]

Hannah02/02/2014 - 12:40 am

Such a lovely dish with beautiful warming flavours. Served my with yoghurt and fresh coriander. Definitely on my list of favourite recipes now.

[…] Sunday afternoon in less than two hours we made a Moroccan and chickpea soup, a lentil salad, and maple pumpkin corn bread from Nutritious […]

[…] Moroccan Style Vegetable + Chickpea Stew by, The First Mess […]

Lutch18/02/2014 - 9:07 pm

Just made this, it was easy to make and very delicious. Probably the only success I’ve ever had in the kitchen. Excited to try many of your other recipes!

Alice09/03/2014 - 5:55 pm

I made this today and it was absolutely delicious! Loads of interesting flavours, I definitely this sweating the onions in the spices before adding any other ingredients is a great tip. Excited to try some more of your recipes.

Fleur20/04/2014 - 9:19 am

My mouth is watering just reading through this recipe! I genuinely cannot wait to try it.