I first made this stew a week ago, when I was looking for something to do with the small Thai Eggplants that were going to waste in my refrigerator. Aromatic and warmly spiced, this Iraqi stew was so delectable that I was actually happy that I was going to have to make the whole meal again.
You see, I had timing issues. I expected the yellow split peas that had been aging in my freezer for, well, ages to behave like fresher peas, and as a result, the stew I imagined taking two hours to cook took over three. And because I had thrown in the eggplant during hour one, it had completely dissolved and become unrecognizable by the time we ate the stew.
It was still delicious, and to be honest, disintegrated eggplant is a plus when you’re feeding an eggplant-hating child (in other words, she didn’t know it was there.) But I wanted to get the timing right and perhaps have tender cubes of eggplant, so less than a week later, I was back in the kitchen making this dish again.
You’ll notice when you read the instructions that I don’t give a specific cooking time for the split peas; that’s because the cooking time varies depending on how old your split peas are, the hardness of your water, and (I think, though I have no proof of this) your elevation. The peas need to be falling-apart soft before you add the other ingredients because they form a sauce around the eggplant and seitan. If your peas are as old as mine, you just need to cook the heck out of them first. I used a pressure cooker, so my second go-round with this recipe took a lot less time.
While I was redoing the recipe, I also decided to tinker with the seitan that goes into it. Previously, I had baked the seitan before tossing it into the stew. This time around, I tried adding the seitan raw to save a step and to see what the resulting texture would be. I’m happy to report that cooking the seitan in the stew worked beautifully; it became more tender and “meaty” than the pre-baked seitan. Which way is better is a matter of taste: I liked the tenderness of the unbaked seitan, while my husband slightly preferred the chewiness of the baked. I’ll leave the choice up to you.
And while I’m talking about seitan, I apologize to my gluten-free readers. I think you still may be able to enjoy this stew with, perhaps, chickpeas or another bean standing in for the seitan. Or maybe you can add an extra half cup of split peas and cook them just until al dente before adding the eggplant. If you try it, please let me know your results.
I know the recipe seems like a lot of work, but I think it is worth it for this unusual and delicious dish. If you really want to cut time, though, consider using a pound of packaged seitan instead of homemade.
Iraqi-Inspired Seitan and Eggplant Stew
- 1 large onion coarsely chopped
- 1 cup yellow split peas rinsed and picked over
- 6 cups water
- 2 dried red chile peppers
- Seasoning blend see below or baharat
- 1-2 teaspoons salt or to taste
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 1 large eggplant diced
- additional seasonings to taste
- 1 cup vital wheat gluten
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon mesquite or hickory seasoning optional
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon tahini or other nut butter
- 3/4 cup cold water
Seasoning Blend (mix all together)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
- Heat a large pot or pressure cooker and add the chopped onion. Cook, stirring, until onion is caramel colored and flecked with brown, 6-10 minutes. (Be careful not to burn.)
- Add the split peas, water, dried chilies, and seasoning blend. Cover and cook until split peas are dissolving. How long this takes will depend on the age of your split peas but allow at least an hour for regular stove-top cooking. (The peas I used were older, so I used the pressure cooker and cooked at high pressure for 16 minutes then quick-released.) Once cooked, split peas should still be very watery, not thick like soup. Add water as necessary to prevent drying out.
- While the split-peas cook, prepare the seitan. Mix the dry ingredients together and add the cold water and tahini (or other nut butter). Mix well. Turn out on a board and knead several times. Flatten out the dough, and using a sharp knife, cut it into rough 1/2-3/4 inch cubes. Set cubes aside. Trim the eggplant and cut it into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Once the split peas are completely tender and starting to fall apart, add the salt, pomegranate molasses, seitan, and eggplant to the pot. There should be enough liquid that the ingredients are just covered but are not floating. If necessary, add more water. Check seasonings and add more if necessary (I added about 1/2 teaspoon of cumin and coriander.) Cover loosely and cook at a low simmer, stirring often, for about 45 minutes, until seitan is firm and cooked all the way through and eggplant is tender. (Toward the end, be sure to stir from the bottom to avoid sticking.)
- Remove the chile peppers and serve in bowls with rice or pita bread.
Nutritional info is approximate.
AnonymousSeptember 20, 2009 at 10:22 pm
I made this for a potluck and it turned out so good! I'm not a great cook and this was the first time that I successfully made seitan. It was so easy and userfriendly (no using 8 cups of broth or worrying about boiling the liquid) and turned out delicious.
Because it took so long to cook, I doubled the quantities and had yummy stew for several days. I can highly recommend this dish!!!
NetaSeptember 21, 2009 at 5:54 am
I'm soaking split peas so I can make it for dinner. I'll go get baharat later. Finally something that's easy to find here 🙂
RissSeptember 23, 2009 at 7:49 am
I just wanted to let you know how excited I am that you are giving a nod to those of us who shun gluten! I was a strict vegan for almost two years, and I've been seriously contemplating a return to the cleaner, more vegetarian life-style. Unfortunately, I've developed a high intolerance for gluten and have been at a loss for how to eat sans meat, dairy, eggs, AND grains (how much worse could it really get?!).
Your website was my vegan sourcebook a year and a half ago, and here you've done it again! You always come up with the most inventive ways of preparing delicious foods that aren't loaded in sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. I can't wait to try out some of your ideas and suggestions! You give me hope.
NicoleSeptember 26, 2009 at 7:32 pm
I've made this twice now and I love love love it! Thank you so much for sharing all of your wonderful meal ideas! Without you I'd be stuck with stir fry every night!!!!
AllieSeptember 28, 2009 at 7:58 am
I made this last night, and it was fantastic! In fact, it was one of my favorite recipes ever from you, and I'm a huge devotee of your blog. (I'd say 50 percent of the meals I make any given week come from your blog. So thank you!)
I didn't feel like running to the Middle Eastern grocery in addition to the health foods store, so I grabbed some pomegranate juice at the HFS and made my own pom molasses from a recipe I found online. (You just simmer pom juice with lemon juice and sugar until it reduces by 1/3.) If you do this, you need to check the label on the pom juice, because many of them have a bunch of other juices mixed in – Knudsen (I think) makes Just Pomegranate Juice.
I also used regular paprika instead of smoked because I didn't want to run to the spice store, so I'm not sure how much that affected the taste. But it was wonderful – a perfect hearty, warming fall meal!
MargaretOctober 13, 2009 at 9:00 am
This looks amazing! I can not wait to try it out. One question, though..I am not a huge fan of eggplant. Is there anything you feel would be a acceptable substitute for it? Thanks ahead of time!
SusanVOctober 13, 2009 at 9:03 am
Margaret, you may be surprised at how good the eggplant tastes in this recipe, but if you just can't stand it, you should be able to substitute zucchini or mushrooms(add near the end) or maybe green beans.
caterinaSeptember 26, 2010 at 2:28 am
If I don’t have yellow split peas, would it be best to substitute green split peas or toor dal?
SusanVSeptember 26, 2010 at 9:13 am
I think you could use either one. Toor dal would probably be the best match in color but may take less time than split peas. Green split peas would probably take the same time as yellow, but the color would be a little different.
caterinaOctober 31, 2010 at 12:43 pm
I just made it and served it with basmati rice: delicious!
caterinaNovember 6, 2010 at 2:29 am
This recipe has now become a favourite of mine and so I have been searching for similar ones: I have found many recipes for persian stews (such as http://turmericsaffron.blogspot.com/2010/03/khoresh-ghaymeh-traditional-iranian.html ) calling for some meat. Do you think I could substitute pre-made seitan? And what amount should I use?
SusanVNovember 6, 2010 at 8:50 am
I think you could use pre-made seitan in any amount up to the amount of meat called for in the recipe. In a recipe like the one you mention, you should also use vegetable broth instead of water to replace the flavor the meat would have given.
Karen LunzmanJanuary 13, 2011 at 9:15 am
OMG…this is insane. the most flavorful dish I think I have ever made. It will be a staple. I shared with my Vegan friends and they all agree. So delish. Looks complicated, but not at all, and making the seitan was key!
LisaAugust 30, 2011 at 10:06 am
I can’t wait to try this – haven’t seen it on your site before. YUM!!!
Sue BairAugust 30, 2011 at 10:13 am
Do you think this will do well in a crock pot?
SusanVAugust 30, 2011 at 10:27 am
I haven’t tried it, but I think it would. I would probably cook everything except the eggplant all together and then add the eggplant later, if possible. Or put it all in at once and see what happens! 🙂 If you try, could you please leave a comment telling what happened? I’d love to know and it may help future readers.
RobertAugust 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm
I have no knowledge of Seitan but do you think a firm tofu, tempeh or even paneer might stand in as a suitable substitute? The dish looks amazing so would like to try it.
SusanVAugust 30, 2011 at 2:19 pm
I think both tofu and tempeh would be good, but it’s been a lifetime since I had paneer, so I don’t know how it would turn out. I would think the chewier texture of tempeh would be the best substitute.
LainaSeptember 16, 2011 at 11:58 am
I went to bed late last night so I decided to make this in my crock pot to cook throughout the night.
I woke up to a wonderful aroma and a delicious pot of stew. One thing though is that the split peas are al dente’. But that’s okay, I don’t mind. I’m guessing it’s because of their age. I don’t cook with them that often.
I love this dish, and your right, the seiten was easy to make. So easy! 🙂 I can’t believe how much it feels and tastes like your eating it’s alternative. *smile*
I used eggplant from my garden and wow, what a difference from store bought. I didn’t have pom molasses, but I do have concentrated pom juice at all times to add a small amount to my smoothie. I used 4 TB and it gave it a nice flavor.
I used 5 cups of water and that seems just about right. I slow-cooked for about 8.5 hours hoping to cook the lentils a little more. I would normally have stopped at 8 hrs. Maybe soaking them beforehand might help.
I used all your spices except coriander. For some reason I don’t like its flavor nor do I like the cilantro leaf. Wish I did, but parsley does me just fine. 🙂
I didn’t have the mesquite or hickory seasoning so I left that out. I used a little extra cumin.
I wanted to let you know that it cooks up wonderfully in the crock-pot, just like a regular stew. I loved the Thai Tofu Salad so much that I thought I’d try the crock pot on this one too! Glad I did. I’ll be making this often!!! Thanks for your delicious recipes as always.
JessieSeptember 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm
I made this today and when I put the seitan in I added cut up potatoes and it was so good, I’ve never had seiten before and it was really yummy
janet @ the taste spaceOctober 26, 2011 at 7:16 am
Susan, this is definitely an oldie but a goodie. Wonderful, wonderful stew. I loved the savoury spices with the pomegranate molasses. 🙂
I wrote about it here: http://tastespace.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/iraqi-inspired-eggplant-and-seitan-stew/
raven nielsenJune 13, 2012 at 9:18 pm
Hi there! This iraqui seitan stew sounds yummy! When you say red pepper, what type do you mean? I’m also wondering if you ever tried to make it in a slow-cooker…do you think it’s work? Would the seitan dissolve? I don’t cook with it too often. Thanks for the great recipes! Raven
Susan VoisinJune 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm
The chile peppers are just slender hot red peppers; you can see one in the photo. I haven’t tried using a slow cooker, but I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work.
debbyDecember 31, 2012 at 5:54 pm
I made your Creole Black eyed Peas for New Years and really enjoyed it. This sounds delicious and I’d like to try it also. Will regular grocery stores carry the seitan? and where could I find pomegranate molasses? Thank you very much, I look forward to trying more of your recipes.
Susan VoisinDecember 31, 2012 at 6:01 pm
I’m so glad you enjoyed the black-eyed peas. For this dish, you’ll be making the seitan out of wheat gluten, which some grocery stores carry but not all. You’ll be more likely to find it at natural food stores like Whole Foods. For the pomegranate molasses, you may need to look in a Middle Eastern store, but try checking the international section of a large grocery store. Sometimes I can find it there.
jessJanuary 13, 2013 at 11:32 am
I have never posted on a blog of any kind before, but I am so grateful for this recipe that I felt it would be wrong not to give you a big, public ‘thank you’!
I have made this stew many times now, and it always gets rave reviews. I do use a bit of oil when sauteeing the onion. And I double the “seasoning blend”.
I also find it easier to mix the wet seitan ingredients (water, tahini, and hickory seasoning) together well before adding to the dry. Before I started doing this, I found that it was difficult to get the tahini evenly distributed through the seitan. (The tahini won’t fully dissolve in the water, but you can easily break it down enough to solve the problem of tahini clumps in the seitan.)
Finally, for gluten-free friends, I have used deep-fried tofu instead of seitan. (There is a Korean grocery store on my block that sells frozen pre-fried tofu. This is of course not consistent with a ‘fat free’ diet, but it tastes great and is a fine gluten-free alternative). I’ve never tried subbing in chickpeas for the setian, but I bet that would also work.
Thanks for your wonderful website, and for this fantastic recipe!
jeniMarch 16, 2013 at 10:41 pm
even my extremely picky eater ate this. Helps tht she likes seitan to begin with.
TracyMarch 24, 2013 at 5:41 pm
pomegranate molasses? can I use regular molasses?
Susan VoisinMarch 24, 2013 at 5:46 pm
I wouldn’t. I think the flavor would be overpowering. Try 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of some other sweetener such as sugar, agave, or maple syrup.
TracyMarch 25, 2013 at 9:15 am
Thanks Susan 🙂
jillylandApril 2, 2013 at 7:05 pm
This was super yummy! I made the gf version with chickpeas. Yum!
KristinJuly 6, 2013 at 6:30 am
I made this last weekend, and it was SO good. I’m always a little hesitant when recipes call for a lot of cinnamon/clove type spices, ’cause it’s really hard for me to make the brain shift to those not necessarily being associated with sweet flavors and I have to be in the mood for something like that, but I went for it (mostly because I’d bought a bottle of pomegranate molasses and it was taunting me from the pantry). I did leave out the cloves, but followed the rest of the recipe as written. Just, WOW. I secreted away what little leftovers there were and snuck them in my lunch bag the next day. Will definitely be making this one again!
Esther JApril 8, 2014 at 10:11 pm
This was SO very delicious, Susan! My stomach is very, very pleased and thankful.
I had an eggplant that was getting old and I had been looking here and yonder trying to find something I’d like to do with it. I stumbled upon this recipe while looking for something else, and I am so happy I did! Simply delicious.
I used green split peas and 1.5 times the spices, I pre-baked the seitan, which I made with peanut butter, I added a little more than .5 lb. of cut green beans (for a touch of green), and as I didn’t have the molasses, nor even a lemon, I sub’d it with lime juice and sugar, as you suggested above.
With that, I go to bed with a very satisfied tummy. 🙂
Thank you very much!
KristinAugust 15, 2014 at 4:14 pm
So, I’ve made this several times as written (it’s my favorite way to eat eggplant, if there is such a thing), and LOVE it. We’re back to the ETL 6-week basics for the time being, so decided to try it with chick peas. It’s still fantastic! I doubled the split peas, used 10 cups of water, used more rounded measurements of the seasonings, and put the eggplant in at the beginning with the peas in the Fagor for the 16 minutes (I wanted it to disintegrate as much as possible). Quick-released the pressure, threw in a can of chick peas and some mushrooms I’d previously cooked and frozen, and let it cook down for maybe 20 minutes or so. It was pretty thin, so might scale back the water a little next time, but this DOES work without the seitan, for sure!
Sara HassanAugust 26, 2014 at 10:24 am
I can’t wait to try this delicious sounding recipe. The spice blend sounds so good I bought a jar of it. Since I don’t need to make the blend, can you please tell me about how much I need to add of the baharat?
Many thanks for you wonderful recipes!
Susan VoisinAugust 26, 2014 at 10:50 am
If I were you, I would add the spice blend to taste. Maybe start with a teaspoon to see how strong it is and then go from there. My spice blend makes about 4 teaspoons worth, but the kind you bought may be spicier, so I wouldn’t want you to overdo it.
Sara HassanAugust 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm
Thank you! Looking forward to making it once the weather cools down.
EvanAugust 25, 2016 at 3:47 pm
Threw this together because I just happened to have all of these ingredients on hand. Turned out nice for the most part! I had to adjust the seasoning to make it stronger, and I would highly recommend baking the seitan until firm. It turned out way to soft and gummy in my stew.
AshleyJanuary 15, 2019 at 8:43 pm
Once you as the seitan and eggplant, how long should you cook if you are using a pressure cooker?
LauraJune 1, 2020 at 12:43 pm
How long should the second cook, after eggplant has been added, be using a pressure cooker? Thanks.
Susan VoisinJune 1, 2020 at 1:34 pm
I haven’t cooked it in a pressure cooker for that stage. I recommend simmering it instead of pressure cooking it, but if you have to pressure cook, I’d guess 20-25 minutes.
SarahJune 18, 2020 at 11:33 am
Hi Susan – this looks so good, I’m excited to try it. Unfortunately, I didn’t read carefully and I have pre-packaged seitan chunks, not the wheat gluten. Do you think I could still use them and just add the nutritional yeast and other seasoning to the chunks and then make the recipe as is? Thanks 🙂
Susan VoisinJune 18, 2020 at 11:49 am
Sarah, I would skip everything in the seitan part of the ingredients (though you can add some of those seasonings at the end, if you like.) make the split peas with only 4 cups of water, and add more when you add the seitan if necessary. You won’t have to cook it very long after the seitan is added, just enough to let the flavors develop and make sure the split peas are cooked through.