In my book Going Coastal, I have an entire section dedicated to soups, stews and broths. This North African cod and chickpea stew is one of my favorites. I’ve been making a version of this dish for years and have turned many friends on to this recipe. The reason I think it’s so popular is that it is easy to customize and is delicious. You can find this recipe on page 503 of the book.
The region referred to as North Africa is made up of seven countries and has a long Mediterranean coastline. The area is vast, and the flavors are distinct. Preserved lemons, decadent spice blends, and legumes are classic ingredients.
I make my chickpeas from scratch using dried peas. It’s a simple dish to prepare; you just need a little time since the peas need to soak overnight (for best results) and cook.
Making the peas from scratch allows me to make a big batch and use them for a variety of dishes. A pressure cooker will make easy work of preparing the legumes; if you choose this route, be sure to give them time to rest. In a pinch, good quality tinned chickpeas will work just as well.
This dish works interchangeably with most white fish – haddock, pollock and halibut are good choice. Steer clear of sole, which tends to be quite thin. You want thick, meaty fish for this stew.
Frozen cod is an excellent option and likely the only one that you’ll have based on your geographical location and a few other factors, like whether you make this stew during cod season or have friends that enjoy fishing and gift you a bunch of fresh fish.
Make no mistake, I love fresh seafood, however, I’m a big fan of quality frozen fish. There are a host of great quality frozen seafood brands where you can find fish in-store or have it shipped directly to you. One of my favorite companies is Red’s Best, which is based on the East Coast and has some really cool frozen seafood, and Wild Fork, which offers a nice variety of fish that can be purchased in-store.
- 1½ tablespoons ghee (or an oil with a high smoke point)
- 1 large brown onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 4 cups water
- 2 anchovy fillets in oil, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- ½ preserved lemon, minced
- 1 12-ounce can unsalted crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon harissa paste or 1 teaspoon red pepper flake
- 2 ½ pounds cod or other white fish like pollock, haddock, whiting or halibut, cut into chunks
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the ghee over medium-high heat and add the onion and garlic. Sweat the veggies until tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the oregano, cumin, coriander, cayenne, thyme, water, anchovies, bay leaf, chickpeas, preserved lemon and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cover for 5 minutes. Stir in the harissa or red pepper flake and add the fish. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the fish is opaque. Taste for seasoning and add salt and freshly ground pepper as needed. Turn off the heat and allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes.
Serve family style or in individual bowls and top with the fresh cilantro along with optional steamed couscous or pita bread.