Tunisian Bean and Chickpea Stew

by on October 3, 2006
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Last week, three new cookbooks arrived by mail, so for days I’ve been poring over recipes and considering new things to cook. The first to arrive were the two I ordered from Nava Atlas–her new cookbook, Vegetarian Soups for all Seasons, and the bonus copy of Vegetariana. They are both beautifully written and illustrated and Vegetariana is just plain fun to look through.

The third book I ordered was Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East and Africa by Habeeb Salloum. I had just begun looking through it when this recipe for Bean and Chickpea Stew caught my eye. It contains pumpkin, and as luck (and my daughter’s incomplete attempt at carving) would have it, I had a small pumpkin in my refrigerator just waiting for me to decide what to do with it.

I made the recipe almost as written, with only three minor changes in ingredients and one major change in technique. I removed the 6 tablespoons (yikes!) of olive oil, increased the harissa from 2 to 3 teaspoons (and it was still a very mild dish), and omitted the 2 tablespoons of cilantro (sorry–though apparently, lots of people like it, it tastes like soap to me). The big change was that I used a pressure cooker to presoak the beans and to speed up the cooking time. In the directions below, I’ll tell how I did it in the pressure cooker and give the original, stove-top time as well.

Tunisian Bean and Chickpea Stew

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SusanV August 5, 2009 at 10:39 am

Here are the comments from the original blog post:

Ruth said…

I just got 3 new cook books too!! Isn’t it fun!!

The stew looks wonderful, thanks for sharing.

1:12 PM, October 03, 2006
Anonymous said…

What’s the easiest/most efficient way to peel and cube a raw pumpkin? I’ve always thought that it would be impossible to peel squashes that have ridges like pumpkin or acorn squash.

3:08 PM, October 03, 2006
SusanV said…

That’s an excellent question, M. I’ve discovered that the easiest way is to cut it into strips first, then peel the strips, then chop into cubes.

This little pumpkin (about 6-8 inches wide) I first cut in half from top to bottom (cut the stem out and then cut down through the stem end). Then I cut it into 1-inch wide strips from top to bottom. (Cutting it is the hardest part.)

Then I use a vegetable peeler to peel the strips. With a good peeler, this is pretty easy. Then I cut the strips into the right sized cubes.

3:19 PM, October 03, 2006
tamara said…

hi susan,

two things. first, tsk tsk for not liking cilantro (my favorite).

also, i’ve managed to put aside a little money for some cookbooks this month, what would you say is an imperative cookbook or two to own? i’ve got vegan with a vengeance, vegan planet, the sarah kramer books (which i’m not a huge fan of), and a couple more whose names i don’t remember but that are nothing spectacular.

5:20 PM, October 03, 2006
funwithyourfood said…

Cilantro? tastes like soap?
welp I need to admit I’m a LOVER of that herb 🙂


8:43 PM, October 03, 2006
Anonymous said…

HHmmm pumpkin- Sadly I’ve never had pumpkin before. Sure I had “pumpkin bread” once or twice, nut I can gaurantee that it was not from a fresh pumpkin. I’d love to try this- although I’m with Teddy and Tamara on the cilantro. And yes I’d love to hear your feedback on Tamara’s question about cookbooks. I only own 1 cookbook- which I love, but I need to some advice on other good books to purchase. Thanks!


9:00 PM, October 03, 2006
Anonymous said…

Fall is a good time of year if you like winter squash. My grocery had the cutest little winter squashes on sale last week and I stocked up since they’ll last a while. Thanks for the tip on peeling them, I usually peel them after they’re cooked, and they don’t end up looking very pretty sometimes.

I think it’s time for some new cookbooks for me too, I’ve had my eye on “The Spice Box: A Vegetarian Indian Cookbook” on amazon… I may have to buy it soon!


ps, I’m not a big fan of cilantro either… I don’t think it tastes like soap, I’m just not crazy about it.

6:34 AM, October 04, 2006
SusanV said…

First, another comment about working with pumpkin: If you have a grapefruit spoon, it works wonders for scraping out the fibrous stuff inside the pumpkin. It makes it so easy!

About cookbooks: This is a tough one. I have about 140 cookbooks, most of them vegetarian, but I’d have to say that my most-used cookbook is called Google. I love being able to type in ingredients and/or ethnicity and check out what’s on the internet.

I my most-used (real) cookbook is probably Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian. I’m on my second copy, after wearing out the first. But this one’s only good if you (A) like Asian food and (B) live near an Asian market. Many of the ingredients aren’t found in regular grocery stores.

I also like Lorna Sass’s Veg. Cooking Under Pressure for pressure cooking. Bryanna Clark Grogan’s books (especially 20 Minutes to Dinner) are great for low-fat, vegan recipes.

A couple of Moosewood books I use often are Moosewood Cooks at Home and Sundays at Moosewood. The At Home book contains simpler recipes, while Sundays contains more international recipes and menues.

I should really do a whole post about this and ask people what their favorites are!

7:29 AM, October 04, 2006
Anonymous said…

Yeah, cilantro is a love it or hate it type of herb. When it comes to cilantro, there is no middle ground!

While I simply adore cilantro and couldn’t go a week without it, I can totally respect your dislike of it! LOL!

9:11 AM, October 04, 2006
Elaine said…

I have always thought that cilantro tastes like soap, and was beginning to despair that anyone agreed with me, till now. *sniffle*

2:48 PM, October 04, 2006
beth said…

Finally!! I have always said that cilantro tastes like soap to me, and people look at me like I’m out of my mind. A little is okay, but too much and all I taste is soap – and I didn’t even say a dirty word.

10:43 AM, October 06, 2006
Mare said…

I adored you anyway, but you are the FIRST to agree with me that Cilantro tastes like soap!

7:27 PM, October 14, 2006
badyoga said…

not liking cilantro! I love it but
reminds me of my not liking basil.
The first time I tasted pesto..I asked the cook…”what was that herb?” so I could know what to AVOIDin the future!!
do you have any preferences for brands of harissa? I want to avoid a bunch of sodium
thanks for your site, its my favorite cookbook

10:30 PM, October 15, 2006
SusanV said…

Thanks, Badyoga! I’m afraid I don’t have a favorite brand of harissa; I use whatever I can find in the stores here, so I haven’t had much choice.

7:38 AM, October 16, 2006
Anonymous said…

If cilantro tastes like soap to you, then that means you’re allergic to it.

2:36 PM, March 18, 2007


2 faouzi amroussi April 18, 2010 at 11:00 pm

hi susan

i have just found out about your so called tunisian bean stew ,
i am sorry to correct you and wonder which book led you to try
this recipe (it looks and sounds nice) but there is no such a stew
in tunisia .
i am tunisian/american and a restaurateur and i am afraid i have to
correct you the stew is made with a tomatoe sauce, pumpkin and only
chickpeas but no white beans and never the two together.

many thanks for the effort.


3 Cecilia December 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Is it possible to use canned beans and substitute something for the pumpkin (like butternut squash)?


4 SusanV October 5, 2011 at 10:41 am

Yes, canned beans would be much faster, and you can use butternut or any winter squash instead of the pumpkin.


5 Rach October 5, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Hi Susan,
I never write emails to people I don’t personally know – and you probably get this all the time but I just wanted to say how inspirational your website has been to me. Being diagnoised with MS 3 yrs ago has been an emotional rollercoaster for me and my husband and little boy. As part of my preventative treatment to slow its progression, I have now radically changed my diet (no dairy, no meat, and only a teeny tiny amount of uncooked extra v. olive oil.). So I’ve had to abandon old family recipes that meant so much to me. And eating became a real struggle (“chocolate cake& wheel chair or nothing???”). Traulling the net for new recipes was something I dreaded as so many things just turned out so wrong, and not only did I suffer- but so did my family! But your website (with its great photography, friendly tone, and inspirational recipes) was a great discovery. You’ve taken me on a journey of seeing food in a different light – understand it more, finding alternatives, and enabling me to cook creatively again for my family. Thank you. You really don’t realise how my heart does a little skip when you post a new recipe, as it means I might be able to treat the family to a meal together and something different (rather then the boys having one meal and me another).
I really like it when you explain something (you have an incredible knowledge), and the slow -cooker recipes are my sort of thing! (prepare it earlier, rather then the last minute stress of having to rush to get dinner – as often by that time of day MS related fatigue sets in). So thanks from all of us who have to change their diet for medical reasons – to be able to take a plate (New Zealand term for ‘potluck’!) to other peoples place and for someone to want the recipe, and cant believe the taste is such a joy.
PS I still have my cocoa (gotta get my chocolate fix!), so any recipes for anything sweet (cooked with apple sauce or banana, or soy milk), would make me sooo happy, but hey, that’s not what this email is about…
It’s about saying a huge THANKS for sharing your talent and knowledge!


6 mare October 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm

THAT looks delicious, slurp 😮


7 Melissa C. November 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Hi Susan and others! The cilantro-tasting-like-soap-thing genetic. Just like you can curl your tongue or you can’t; you have a widow’s peak hairline or you don’t. Cilantro tastes like soap or it doesn’t. =) I find it funny that this is the first time I’ve chimed in, but Susan, I LOVE your blog! I began eating vegan earlier this year and have been so happy with how I feel! We’ve been in the process of moving for the last couple of weeks, so I have not been cooking much at all. I have been eating dairy and added oils quite a bit and it’s not good! Soon I’ll be able to get back to normal! I made your baba ganoush last week since I had baby eggplants in my CSA box – delicious! Seriously, your blog is my go-to website. I’ve made a lot of your recipes and my whole family has loved it. So glad you are a mom who understands trying to make healthy foods delicious! Thanks again and I’ll try to post more! Kindly, Melissa


8 Zoe Sodjda November 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I’ve been looking at the recent Tunisian recipe, chickpea & potato salad, as well as an older one that’s a bean & chickpea stew. They look delicious. Do you have a good recipe for harissa? Thanks


9 Susan Voisin November 28, 2012 at 5:39 pm

I’ve never made it myself, but I’ve seen recipes online that get good reviews. One day I’ll have to try making my own.


10 nicole April 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm

I was skeptical of this dish, but made it anyway. Wow, it’s unusual to my palate, but quite yummy. I made harissa from the following recipe: http://fuchsfoodie.blogspot.com/2010/05/harissa-at-cava-mezze-makes-me.html
and used 3 tsp. It didn’t turn out all that spicy so if you like heat, use more.

I also substituted sweet potatoes for the pumpkin as it’s not pumpkin season. I also cooked it in a slow cooker.

I will definitely make this again. However next time I want to use different beans to add a bit more color to the dish.


11 Bryanna Clark Grogan October 3, 2013 at 10:24 am

Thanks for posting this, Susan! I love Habeeb Salloum’s books and own several of them, including the one you reference here. He is a Canadian who’s family emigrated from Syria to the Canadian Prairies in the 1920’s. He is an amazing scholar and you can find his essays on language, food, history and travel on the internet. One of my most prized books is a signed copy of his book “Arab Cooking on a Saskatchewan Homestead”, which chronicles his family’s journey and struggles on a Saskatchewan homestead, especially during the 1930’s drought. Their nourishing traditional foods, such as chickpeas and homemade bulgur wheat, enabled them to eat well and stay healthy during that time. The book is not vegetarian, but a large percentage of the recipes are, and most can be veganized. I just love this type of cookbook, which includes history and a personal story.


12 Stephanie Watson January 12, 2015 at 4:47 pm

No wonder I love your recipes. Cilantro also tastes like soap to me :).


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