D’fina: vegan pumpkin, quince, bean and barley stew — a Honey & Co recipe


Sobering up to a new year, it’s time for the post-holiday debriefing. While you may still be basking in the afterglow of a cinnamon-scented Christmas with games and puzzles, wintry walks and functional families, others may take solace in comparing war stories. The racist stepfather, maybe, or the passive-aggressive aunt. The exasperated mother who enjoys children’s phones popping out of the screens with cloudy eyes and dismay at what Christmas looks like IRL. The drunken uncle, the inappropriate teenage cousins, or just the dreaded “So tell me, are you seeing anyone?” There are the quarrels (Brexit, vaccines), the rotten gifts (“She gave you what?!”) and the butcher’s meal (“How can you make gray beef?”). Or maybe you just ate obscene amounts of cheese. Either way, if you found yourself on the dark side, it’s good to know you weren’t alone.

The festive suite has its own rituals, which tend to reduce the menu. Who will dry out after a very wet month of December? who watched Marine suction and now you don’t eat fish? Who decarbs or does “Veganuary”?

Still, there’s no reason why this time shouldn’t be so delightful. D’fina is the Moroccan version of hamin or cholent. It’s usually made with meat or just bones, but we much prefer this vegan version. While it looks simple and rather brown at first glance, it’s also a rainbow of flavors and textures in one jar. The sweetness comes from pumpkin and fruit, the warmth and pep from bold spices, and the richness from long, slow cooking. It’s satisfying without being heavy, wholesome but not worthy. It’s good for the body, the soul and probably the planet. In short, it’s the perfect fix for whatever December throws at you.

© Patricia Niven

D’fina – stew of pumpkin, quince, barley and beans overnight

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

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

  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 700 g). Peel and cut the rest into one centimeter cubes (about 250g).

  3. Cut two of the potatoes into large chunks, leaving the skin on, then peel the last one and dice it like the pumpkin. Cut the quince or pear into quarters and remove the seeds.

  4. In a large carafe, combine the spices, tomato paste, date molasses, two tablespoons of oil and a quart of boiling water and stir to combine.

  5. Place the remaining two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large oven-safe pan (one that can fit in your oven and doesn’t have plastic handles). Add the diced onion and a pinch of salt, then set over medium-high heat and sauté for six minutes to soften a bit, stirring occasionally. Add the diced pumpkin and potato with another pinch of salt and sauté for another six minutes. Add the boiled beans and barley along with the remaining salt. Stir to combine.

  6. Pour enough liquid mixture over the barley and beans to cover them. Remove from fire.

  7. Place all the large chunks of vegetables in an even layer over the barley. Cover with as much of the remaining liquid as possible, saving the rest for later. Cover with a sheet of baking paper, then with the lid of the pot. Put it in a preheated oven at 150°C for two hours.

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

  9. When you’re ready to eat, pour the vegetable layer onto a large plate, then mix the barley and bean mixture and place it on the table. We usually serve with tahini or yogurt on the side.

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