100% whole wheat sandwich loaf

I have been on the hunt for a tender sandwich loaf that slices cleanly. I accidentally made my dream loaf a few weeks ago and it took me exactly 3 tried to nail down how I arrived at this stellar loaf. Hint, it does matter which order the ingredients find their way into the bowl (oil goes last!).

 

Ingredients

1.5 cups heated and cooled whole milk (mine has extra cream which may have played a role in the final product)
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 large egg
3 tbls. honey
3 tbls. olive oil
1 tbls. active dried yeast
1.5 tsp. salt
4-5 cups white whole wheat flour

Combine milk, water, egg, honey, half of your flour and the other dry ingredients, mix until well combined then keep mixing for 2 minutes. Add an additional 1 cup of flour and mix until it starts to form a more pliable dough. Turn off mixer and let dough rest for 15 minutes. Turn mixer on to medium low speed and add additional flour until the dough is soft but pulls away from the edges of the bowl as it kneads. At this point slowly pour in your oil until it is thoroughly mixed in.

Turn dough out into a lightly oiled bowl and raise until doubled. Shape into two 8 inch loaves or 1 larger loaf and several rolls. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and let dough raise until nearly doubled. Bake loaves for 30-35 minutes, loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool completely before slicing.

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birthday baking

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The Marzipan Petit Fours

Let’s start with the birthdays. J and I kicked off our birthday month (it’s the big 3-0 for us this year!) with this smashing Marzipan Petit Four cake from the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook I set aside a whole afternoon to bake and construct it, and I was really pleased with how it turned out.

My oven has been pretty touchy lately, and it was a genuine beast when it came to maintaining heat levels for the cake layers–likely because testing for readiness involved lots of opening and closing of the oven doors. I ended up sticking one of the three layers back into the oven after it had been sitting out for 10 or 15 minutes, just because I couldn’t make up my mind about whether it was setting properly or not.

But the end result was delicious. I enjoyed the extra flavor of the marzipan in the cake layers (I used a pastry cutter to work it into the batter since I don’t have a food processor!) And the chocolate ganache frosting was so much fun to drape and smudge over the little cakes. (Oh, and it lasted for days afterward, even after I gave away slices to our party-goers, which made for many sweet treats with afternoon coffee.)

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A dreamy interior courtyard in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (where we spent part of our very successful NYC birthday celebration)

My other recent baking experiment was this double-coconut muffin recipe, which I mixed up on impulse Thursday afternoon between finishing my writing for the day and heading out for dinner. I had two jars full of flaked coconut that were slowly going stale, and I had just bought a new jar of coconut oil to replace the one that I discovered molding in a corner of the pantry; plus, there was a container of yogurt in the fridge and ours almost always goes bad. The recipe was a god-send.

I don’t know why I don’t make muffins more often: they are quick to mix up and bake and can be riffed on endlessly. I liked the extra coconut-y flavor of these ones and the slightly sour tang of the yogurt. And I was glad that I didn’t have the recommended sweetened cococut: the recipe was just fine without them.

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Sweet little crocuses spotted on my long run this weekend

And now: on to spring! With just over a month until my dissertation is due, it’s going to be a hectic April. Wish me serenity, a clear mind, and lots of good words.

 

Love from your Connecticut baker,

Allison

How To Use Extra German Chocolate Cake Frosting

(if you don’t have graham crackers to eat it on)

I don’t know about you, but I always find that somehow I can never make the exact right quantity of frosting for any dessert project. Either it’s not quite enough so I have to make another whole or half batch just for that last three tablespoons I need to cover the top of the cake, or it’s just waaaaaay to much to begin with. Either way, I can never bring myself to throw it out. Of course, if you have graham crackers to spread it on, you don’t even need to read this, but if (like me this week) graham crackers are nowhere in the house, I’m here to help you.

Two words: Hand. Pies.
I cannot even describe the convenience of pie crust in solving the leftovers problem (sweet or savory). Extra points if you already have some tucked away in your freezer from the last time you made a Quiche. Just pull that out of the freezer and stick it in the fridge to defrost in the morning so it’s ready to go whenever you have a chance to do a tiny bit of pastry making during the day. I don’t have any specific pie crust recipe to suggest, but find one with no eggs and plenty of vinegar in it for the most tenderness and flakiness.
For my part, I didn’t alter the frosting much, although you really could go wild if you wanted to. For about 3/4 to 1 cup of frosting and 1/2 batch of pie crust I used:

1 large Bosc Pear (very well-ripened as it was the last in the fruit bowl) peeled and diced
1/2 tsp each of ground Cloves, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg (my favorite ingredients)
1 small palm of black raisins

For the pie crust: Divide into 8 equal parts and then leave in the fridge, bringing out the sections one at a time as you work with them. keeping your surfaces floured, roll out your section, spread a thin layer of butter and fold in half, spread with butter again and fold in thirds (like the last fold of a towel) to make a tiny cube. Roll it out again as thin as you can without damaging it. Fill the center with a heaping spoonful of your frosting/filling, fold in half and fold the edges in a twist pattern like you would a regular pie. Place on floured baking pan. Grab your next piece of crust out of the fridge and repeat.
To finish them all off, brush a little egg over the tops and if you’re feeling extra fancy you can sprinkle a little raw sugar granules on as well (I didn’t do this, but I think it would be lovely). I baked mine at 425^ for 20 minutes, but I’ve found that depending on the day and the humidity of the filling it’ll need more or less time. Set your timer for 10 or 12 minutes and go from there is my go-to method for hand pies.

Sadly we ate all of ours before I remembered to take a picture, but they were absolutely delicious and I could see them going excellently with a serving of vanilla bean ice cream or a little whipped cream-cheese desert topping a-la-pear desert (get that recipe from Faerynn). And, of course, it’s best served with a mug of your favourite tea.
Like I mentioned before, this is also an excellent solution for savory leftovers (maybe you didn’t get all the way through the filling on taco night?), and I hope it comes in as useful and delicious for you as it has for me!

Happy pastry-making! Elaina Joy

a return…and some bready advice

Wait…how did that happen? The year slipped by, right through my fingers, dish after tasty dish, all un-chronicled here. But I’m back now, ready to take another stab at catching these edible days before they disappear.

Some domestic, wintry scenes

My kitchen exploits have slowed to a gentle simmer recently (not that they were ever truly at a full boil), due to my impending dissertation deadline and a rough job market season.  However, I am now back to baking bread every two weeks, and on the off weeks I try my hand at a treat, usually from Smitten Kitchen. This weekend I’m looking forward to attempting the “Marzipan Petit Four” recipe from her latest book. (If I remember, I’ll try to take some pictures on J’s phone, since mine has been out of order since September!)

I’ve been very pleased at the results of my bread-making revival. Very early this winter I was really struggling to get my loaves to rise. My loaves were turning out heavy and dense, despite the fact that I was using tried and true recipes. But recently I think I pin-pointed the problem: I was killing my yeast. Turns out, in my eagerness to get the yeast into warm water, I was plunging it into almost boiling water. I’ve since made sure to get my tea kettle water lukewarm before adding the yeast, and the results have been pillowy loaves, even using the plainest recipe.

As the pictures above show, J and I have really settled into our domestic rituals, complete with puzzles and gentle dustings of snow. Of course real life can’t always be like this. Most days we are caught in the shuffle of emails, and readings, and classes, and writing. But I like to remember that real life can be like this–like a Sunday afternoon with the smell of fresh bread hanging in the air and an unread book or an unfinished puzzle calling your name.

Much love to you all from CT,

Allison

half whole wheat english muffins

  

I fell in love with the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook shortly after relocating to Greeley, Colorado. It was on display as part of a fall baking showcase and I could not pass up the glorious pictures. I loved it so much that someone made sure it found its way under the Christmas Tree that same year and I have been making Tom Douglas’ English muffins religiously ever since. Except, I couldn’t eat that many English muffins and not feel obligated to amp up the whole grains. This is not a 100% whole wheat muffin, but I did get them all the way up to 50% without sacrificing too much in the toothsome department. These are an endeavor not to be taken lightly, they will take you all of 5 hours if made from start to finish, though you can take a rest after the first rise by placing the dough in the refrigerator and returning to finish the job later the same day or the following day. Just be advised that the second rise will take twice as long (but it’s all inactive time). Before you begin you will need to boil 2 smallish yukon gold potatoes with their skins on, until soft, mash them with a fork and then pack a 1 cup measure full of them and refrigerate until completely cool.

Love from more southerly Oregon sister,
BV

Half Whole Wheat English Muffins (24 muffins)

1 cup Yukon gold potatoes (cooked, mashed, and cooled)
15.75 oz whole wheat flour (3.5 cups freshly milled flour scooped into a measuring cup and then leveled)
15.75 oz bread flour (3.25 cups scooped into a measuring cup and then leveled)
2.5 cups cold water (1st portion)
2 tablespoons honey
4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 cup water (2nd portion)

Combine potatoes, both flours, water (1st portion), honey, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed with dough hook for 10 minutes. Turn off mixer and let rest for 5 minutes.

Turn on mixer and continue to kneed for 1 or 2 more minutes (dough will be tightly wound round the paddle), add the 2nd portion of water in 5 parts (about 3 tablespoons each) allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more. Continue to kneed after last addition until dough is glossy and stretchy. . .this dough will be very soft, almost batter like, do not be alarmed, all will be well.

Add a small amount of oil to a large bowl, swirl it around to coat the sides and then turn dough into oil coated bowl to rise. After 30 minutes turn the dough by lifting the side of dough furthest from you, pulling it up and toward you (basically folding the dough in half), give the bowl a 90 degree turn and repeat the fold. Do this for a total of 4 times until you have turned all four sides of the dough. Let rest 30 more minutes, repeat the turns and leave to rise for 1 hr. or until doubled (in a very warm kitchen you will not likely need the full hour, in a cool kitchen you may want to preheat your oven to 150 degrees F. turn it off and then let the dough finish rising there.

Turn out the dough onto a large, well floured cutting board and divide the dough in half. Return one half to the bowl and cover while you shape the other half into muffins. Divide the remaining half of dough into twelve equal parts (if you wish to have precisely sized muffins weigh out your dough balls they should each be roughly 2.67 oz).  Generously flour half of your cutting board, take one of the twelve portions, set it in the flour, fold the dough in half,  then scoot the ball of dough to an unfloured portion of your cutting board. With the palm of your hand on top of the dough, roll in a circular motion until the dough has formed a tight ball, don’t worry if the first one doesn’t seem quite right, you will get the hand of it after a couple of tries. Continue to shape all 12 portions of dough into balls.

Line two large baking trays with parchment paper and dust with flour. Equally space your twelve muffins on one tray and repeat the shaping process with remaining half of dough. Cover both baking sheets with cloth kitchen towels and let muffins raise until nearly doubled in size.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. When muffins have risen, bake in preheated oven for 8-9 minutes, flip muffins over, pat them briskly to flatten them slightly and release steam (you may wish to use a spatula or place an oven mit over the muffin as the steam will be hot), and bake for an additional 8-9 minutes. Be sure to rotate pans between oven racks so that they bake evenly as well as rotate pans front to back.

Remove from oven and let cool completely before slicing and toasting!

 

 

 

blackberry tumble

Blackberry Tumble“The blackberries are dripping from the trees” F remarked as we headed out on a Sunday afternoon walk. The brambles have intertwined themselves with the branches of the wild cherry saplings and boast clusters of lush, shiny, intensely black, berries that parade a range of tart, earthy, and cloyingly sweet fruits that muddle together in a pastry crust to create the central dessert at our Christmas celebration. I already have the bag stashed away in the freezer and daily add to the frozen berry collection as the little boys abandon their containers of berries on the kitchen counter, their bellies aching from the sweet, juicy, goodness that lines our driveway.

But there are only so many frozen blackberries you can use and, after my 90 lb cherry extravaganza earlier this summer, I am not feeling inclined toward canning just now. That leaves a 1 mile stretch of road with bushels of blackberries and I feel sad when I think of them shriveling up on their vines. The only thing to do is enjoy them now, fresh, and often. Every walk takes a little more time, budgeting for the inevitable “berry break,” and I am often reminded of one summer not so long ago, as C and I were preparing to move from here to Colorado when our last few afternoons were spent nibbling blackberry hand pies in the afternoon with cups of strong coffee while the baby slept and C studied for entrance exams. 3 years later, we are back in the Pacific Northwest (indefinitely) in the same house with an almost 4 yr old who is now an over eager berry picker. Today, we also had 19 egg whites that had to vacate the fridge and the brother visiting from the Midwest deserved a proper farewell. After all, he ran the Crater Lake Marathon this weekend and survived the flu that hit up all but 1 of the household in the last 10 days. Thus was born the Blackberry Tumble: a wedge of angel food cake topped with a dollop of softly whipped cream and a spoon of macerated blackberries.

I followed the Food Networks recipe for angel food cake nearly to a T, including the part where you pulverize your granulated sugar into a powder, but then realized I didn’t have cake flour and used unbleached all purpose flour instead. . .friend, I could not tell the difference, the cake was springy and tender, everything I could have hoped for. A teaspoon full of sugar whisked into 3/4 of a cup of heavy whipping cream cut the sweetness of the cake. As for the blackberries, we used a generous 3 cups of freshly picked berries, the zest of half an orange, and sugar to taste. We gently stirred the three ingredients together, allowing the berries to release a bit of their juice and then spooned it generously on top of our cake slices. Their tart-sweet flavor and deep purple color balanced out the composition in what was a pleasing end to a Monday evening and a sweet farewell.

Safe travels brother!

Bethany

Simple Food

“We do know that people have always found ways to eat and live well, whether on boiling water or bread or beans, and that some of our best eating hasn’t been our most foreign or expensive or elaborate, but quite plain and quite familiar.”

– Tamar Adler An Everlasting Meal

Food often becomes the grounding element of each day in my house. I love to cook, this activity often becomes the framework around which I organize my other commitments. The time and planning it takes me to cook well also seems to leave me in a position to be more flexible. For two years I cooked, almost without fail, new recipes every day (excluding leftover days). But this year has been different, I have set aside many of my favorite cookbooks, having gleaned a myriad of techniques and ideas, and resorted to pantry shopping and meal plans that rely on weekly grocery sales and local/seasonal produce as a template from which to craft our daily meals. Fortunately Allison stumbled upon Tamar Adler’s book during her last visit to CO and Tamar’s thoughts on cooking have given me lots of good food writing pleasure and cooking inspiration as I explore this different approach to food. Her summary at the end of a chapter devoted to beans (the quote up top) made my heart sing. For indeed this ‘simpler’ approach to food has lent itself to to many happy meals, some of warm bread and a large pot of well seasoned black beans others of pasta mixed with whatever vegetable I have on hand to roast or stew. And if dinner wasn’t a particular winner. . .well then it’s probably best to whisk together a yeasted waffle batter and leave it overnight on the counter so tomorrow you can start fresh with the lightest, crispiest, whole-wheat, waffles you can imagine

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Marion Cunningham’s Overnight Waffle (adapted for whole wheat) Makes 4 10″-  belgian waffles

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/8 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups warm milk
1/2 cup warm water
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick butter, melted and cooled)
2 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoons baking soda

Night Before

Whisk together flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl (at least 3-quarts in capacity). Make a well in the center and pour in warm milk, water, and melted butter. Whisk all ingredients to make a smooth batter and cover with plastic wrap (or lid if you recently acquired mixing bowls with lids as I did). Leave the batter on the counter overnight to ferment, it will balloon to three times its size and collapse again.

Next Morning*

Heat and oil your waffle iron per instructions. Beat the eggs into the batter then sprinkle on the 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and stir until well mixed. Don’t worry that the batter seems very thin, the waffles will be marvelous. Pour 1 cup (plus a little more if the first one comes out poorly formed) on a 10″ waffle iron and cook until crispy and golden. Top with your desired adornments, we opted for a sprinkle of cocoa powder and powdered sugar, a drizzle of maple syrup, and blueberries garnishing the plate. But I can imagine whipped cream and strawberries also being wildly popular.

*The batter can be refrigerated for several days and cooked straight from the refrigerator. If you are only cooking a couple waffles at a time and wish to keep the batter for several breakfast just sprinkle a smidge of baking soda on top and stir in before cooking to neutralize some of the acid from the fermenting yeast. I used 1/8th teaspoon on the second morning and all was well in waffle world.

Love from CO,
Bethany

 

a slump to soften the January blues

We returned to real life this past week. It’s a good thing that real life for us is a real joy! It’s overflowing with exciting projects to work on, incredibly kind and generous people to work and walk through life with, and there’s always food, from the humblest cauliflower stew to extravagant 5 part tapas meals to usher out one year and ring in the next. I even still have several bags of Christmas cookies in my freezer. Yet, January can be a low month, the weather is often seriously cold, the snow is no longer novel and, if the weather does warm up enough to start to melt the snow, the sodden earth can’t absorb all the moisture of the melting snow and the water builds up where the cross walks meet the road leaving ice bergs that make my afternoon walk feel a bit like an arctic adventure. If you are brave enough to face the frozen wasteland outdoors when you come back inside you might need something cozy to warm you up. I certainly did, and I had it on my mind when I spied the bag of cranberries wallowing in despair at the bottom of my fruit drawer (bought for a Christmas dinner that never got made) and it was still there when I had a stop at Natural Grocers and couldn’t pass up the 3 lb bag of “past their prime” pears that could easily be salvaged and definitely shouldn’t go to waste, I found myself itching to bake. . .something cozy and sweet. Who says you have to finish all the Christmas cookies before you can bake something else? I kept thinking along the lines of a crisp, but looking through “The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook” I spied a slump recipe. Where cobbler and crisp happily collide on a stove top and give you the dessert version of chicken and dumplings. Though the recipe I found called for a combination of raspberries and cranberries I found my well ripened pears to be a perfectly acceptable substitute for the raspberries. The resulting slump, paired with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, was a lovely ending to a crisp January Thursday.

Cranberry-Pear Slump (barely adapted from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook by Debra Daniels-Zeller)

2 cups fresh cranberries
2 cups peeled and diced pears
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest
2 tablespoons cold butter

Heat a heavy skillet (not cast iron) over medium heat. Mix cornstarch with 1/3 cup orange juice in small bowl and set aside.  Combine the cranberries, pears, orange juice, sugar and orange zest in the skillet, pour cornstarch mixture over top. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the milk and lemon juice and set aside. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and orange zest. Mix well, making sure there are no small lumps of baking soda. Cut in the butter until the mixture has a mealy consistency. Add the milk and lemon juice and stir until a fairly thick but still sticky batter forms (I needed an extra splash of milk to achieve this texture).

Drop the batter from a heaping teaspoon onto the simmering fruit, going around the outside of the pan until you reach the middle, covering almost all of the fruit.

Cover and simmer until the dumplings are done, about 40 minutes. Serve in individual dishes topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream. Serves 6

Pie!

We bailed on our Thanksgiving travel plans last minute. . . but soon enough that I could plan our own Thanksgiving feast complete with homemade pie from homegrown pumpkin (a combination of my friends real pumpkin and my pseudo pumpkin a.k.a. golden nugget squash). Then, since we we found ourselves with a four day weekend we even got to host pie and coffee for our Dominican friends and make a fruit pie to boot. While my mom’s classic Cream Cheese Pumpkin pie is a main stay, winning over even the not pumpkin pie eaters among us, I have been waiting for the prime time to try out two of Yossy Arefi’s fall pies and they were absolutely worth the wait. The Winter Luxury Pumpkin Pie boasts a creamy, perfectly set custard, mildly sweetened with maple syrup while the Pear Pie with Crème Fraîche Caramel is a show stopper replete with lattice top crust which oozes with pear juices and caramel. . .oh my! The real clincher though was Arefi’s All-Butter Pie Crust. On the surface her crust looks pretty typical: Flour, Salt, Butter, Apple Cider Vinegar, Water; but her method turns the thing almost into puff pastry (another recipe she has in her cookbook). The secret? She leaves shards of butter in the pastry and adds enough water and vinegar to make the dough clump. After a long or overnight rest in the refrigerator the crust rolls out into a flaky pastry that puffs around your fruity or creamy filling. Happy “Day After Thanksgiving!” I hope your day was full of good food and good company.

Love from CO,

Bethany

cold weather comfort food

 

aramb-lamb-stewThe sky is a startling shade of blue this morning, but yesterday that blue was no where to be seen. Rather, we hovered on the verge of what felt like imminent snow (though if I had checked a thermometer it probably would have read in the mid fifties). It was weather that called for bowls full of gut warming soup and fresh bread. In other words, it was a perfect opportunity to explore my “Gourmet Soups Cookbook” by Carole Clements. I acquired this book about 8 years ago when, one summer I decided to cook my way through 1 chocolate cookbook, 1 salad cookbook, and 1 soup cookbook. I didn’t succeed with my goal but came a lot closer with my chocolate cookbook than I did with the soups or salads because. . .chocolate! Since we are headed into a cold and blustery autumn I figured now was as good a time as ever to resume my way through the soup cookbook which is a treasure trove of cozy food. I filled our chilly evening with bowls of Arab Lamb Stew, chock full of the last remaining produce rescued from my garden and a simple spice mix that lent a wonderful aroma to my house and a modest amount of heat to our bowls. I accompanied the stew with parathas (a middle eastern unleavened bread that puffs spectacularly in the oven). The stew recipe suggested 4-6 servings but, perhaps because I was heavy handed with the produce, we will definitely get a solid 8 servings out of my soup pot full of deliciousness. I have every intention of using the extra time not spent cooking dinner tonight or tomorrow to try out an experimental canning project. Maybe. . .if it goes well, the final product will appear here. belgian-brownie-cakeletAs wonderful as a hearty bowl of stew is, there is nothing like a warm chocolate treat to end the day and SK’s belgian brownie cakelets hit the spot. I halved the recipe in an attempt to keep my sweet tooth in check but kind of wished I hadn’t. She suggests 72% dark chocolate but all I had was 65% or 85% so I did  a half and half mixture of the two and, if my math skills serve me correctly, ended up with 75% dark chocolate to go in the batter. Whatever it was certainly turned into a decadent chocolate success that the mama and daddy of the house enjoyed after the little person was sound asleep.

Love from CO,

Bethany

Arab Lamb and Chick-Pea Soup (8 servings) 

3/4 cup chick-peas (garbanzos), soaked overnight and drained, or 1 3/4 cups canned chick-peas, rinsed and drained.
1 Tablespoon olive oil (original recipe suggest 1 1/2-2 tablespoons but leg of lamb has plenty of fat and I didn’t find the full amount necessary)
1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lam, trimmed of all fat and cut into 1-inch cubes (original recipe calls for lamb shoulder but I had leftovers from a leg roast that I had set aside, if using shoulder you might need to increas the oil for browning)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fruity red wine (or you could go with a drier white wine per Clements suggestion, or skip the wine altogether)
5 cups water
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme (I used 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh)
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron or turmeric
1 cup thinly sliced white and light green part of leeks (you will need to cut the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse them well to remove all traces of dirt and grit from the layers)
1 1/2 cups diced carrot
1 large potato, diced
2 cups diced zucchini (Celement suggests slicing the zucchini in half-moons but my zucchini was a giant so I opted for smaller chunks)
1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste
To Serve: chopped cilantro or mint, a spoon full of plain yogurt, and harissa (we went with a simple sprinkle of cilantro this time around)

If using dried chick-peas, cook over medium heat in boiling unsalted water to cover generously until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain

Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole or large saucepan over high heat. Add enough of the lamb to cover the base of the pan sparsely and cook, stirring frequently, until evenly browned. Remove the browned meat and continue cooking in batches, adding a little more oil if needed. When the last batch is nearly browned, add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Return all the meat to the pan and add the wine, if using, water, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, cinnamon and cumin. Bring just to a boil, skimming off any foam as it rises to the surface, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours until the meat is very tender. Discard the bay leaf.

Stir in the chick-peas, tomatoes, roasted peppers, saffron or turmeric, leek, carrot and potato, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the zucchini and peas, and continue simmering for 15-20 minutes more, or until all the vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little harissa, if you like a spicier soup.

Ladle the soup into warm bowls and garnish with a  dollop of plain yogurt and a sprinkle of mint or cilantro if you like.