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This Moroccan stew is steeped in sensuality. The sweet and spicy smells of garam masala and cayenne pepper give a hint of what’s to come. Garam masala is to me what madeleines were to Proust. I love the stuff. The smell alone is intoxicating. There’s a divine fusion of sultry aromas and warming spices in this stew.

Excuse me while I sniff the spice bottle.

“I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure invaded my senses…” Marcel Proust (1871-1922) Remembrance of Things Past

I know exactly what he means, although my pleasure fixation is not for madeleines. It’s for the cardamom, cinnamon, cayenne, clove, cumin, coriander and black pepper that give this stew such complex and sensual flavor.

Walk into a fine spice shop and take a deep, slow whiff of freshly ground and mixed garam masala. You’ll know what I mean.

sweet and spicy gluten-free Morrocan stew
what you need

2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
2/3 lb organic, 100% grass fed beef, cut into stew cubes
1 medium onion, chopped, about 1-1/4 cup
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped in 1 inch cubes, about 3 cups
3 garden-fresh and roasted tomatoes (optional, but good) *
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained *
6 mejool dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup coconut milk (optional, but good)
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper *
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

what you do
• Preheat oven to 375 degrees if you choose to add roasted tomatoes. Wash and cut tomatoes into quarters. Put in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, add some sea salt and freshly ground pepper and toss to coat. Place in a shallow glass baking dish, skin side down and put on center rack of the oven for 20 minutes. (You can do this as you’re preparing the other ingredients.) Let cool slightly and mash with a fork. Set aside for later.
• Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a large soup pot or sauce pan. Add beef chunks in batches, so they don’t crowd each other. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper and brown on all sides, about 4 or 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
• Add a little more coconut oil to the pot (1/2 to 1 tablespoon). Add the onion and sauté for 6 to 8 minutes, until golden brown. Add garlic and continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often.
• Pour the chicken broth into the pot and add the chopped sweet potato chunks. Bring to a low boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
• Add the beef, roasted and smashed tomatoes, garbanzo beans, mejool dates, coconut milk and spices. Gently stir to combine ingredients. Let simmer until juices thicken and ingredients combine. Add the cilantro, cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.
• Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
• Take a big sniff, serve and enjoy. Makes about 6 servings.

Eat alone as a stew or pour over brown rice. Next time I think I’ll add a few chunks of candied ginger. Doesn’t that sound good?

* The tomatoes are an option. I have so many tomatoes right now, I’m tossing them in everything I make.
* Eden Organics uses BPA-free cans.
* If you don’t want spicy, skip the cayenne pepper and use 1-2 teaspoons of paprika. I actually used more cayenne pepper than I mentioned in the recipe, but I like spicy.

Peace, love and aromatic spices.

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24 Responses to “sweet and spicy gluten-free Moroccan stew”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melissa, Gluten Free Emily. Gluten Free Emily said: Gluten Free For Good sweet and spicy gluten-free Moroccan stew: This Moroccan stew is steeped in sensu… #GlutenFree […]

  2. Proust and a recipe. You’ve got it all goin’ on, Melissa. I can see this on the menu soon. Snow here Friday. Just wet snow. Nothing to you, I’m sure, but I’ll need some warmth. Proust is still on the shelf. Never could get very far with him, despite the madeleines.

    • Melissa says:


      Oh, if you only knew. I’m a total nutbar. I’m reading “Proust Was a Neuroscientist” right now and it has sparked my culinary imagination. Or dopamine neurotransmitters. Anyway, this stew is good. I added a giant blast of cayenne pepper, which I changed in the recipe to protect my readers. =) As for snow, we are getting plenty in the high country, but none at my house yet. I’m anxiously awaiting it though.


  3. Have you ever made your own garam masala? It’s heavenly. And the aroma – just fabulous! Your casserole looks delicious!

    • Melissa says:


      Yes, I have. Isn’t it unbelievable. Like I said, I can’t stop sniffing the spice jar. I have a spice grinder and make my own blends quite often. Yum!

  4. This sounds and looks wonderful. I have pork cooking in the crockpot for dinner. I think I might snag a little and give this soup a try with a little pork. I love all the ingredients and have them all on hand. This is going to be my lunch for sure! I love when you share your talents in the kitchen with us.

    • Melissa says:


      Pork is probably the more logical choice, but I decided on a whim to try making this stew and my local Whole Foods didn’t have the pork choices I wanted. I could have gotten some from my CSA, but I wanted to make this right then, not a week later, so I opted for local organic beef.

      Let me know how it comes out.


  5. Once again – great minds think alike! I am posting something very similar today, inspired by Shirley @ GFE. That’s right – I’m actually writing again. Hope it makes sense;-) XO

    • Melissa says:

      Karen! So nice to “see” you. I think of you often and hope you’re doing okay. I’ve been out of town and am now in the midst of an intense yoga immersion. I haven’t had any extra time to blog hop lately. I’ll get back to it, but in the meantime, thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you soon. xo

  6. lo says:

    Simply intoxicating, Melissa. And that’s just in my flavor imagination. I love the sweet/salty combo here — from the dates to the sweet potatoes. Indian food is a dazzling exhibition of amazing flavors — and this dish makes the most of every last ingredient.


    And now, back to my post-dinner blog reading.

    • Melissa says:


      Intoxicating is right. Just had the last of the stew tonight poured over brown rice. Oh my gosh, that is good stuff. And the heat has subsided and blended in with the sweet a little better than it did the first night I made it (I put in a bit more cayenne pepper than I suggested in the recipe). I just love your “dazzling exhibition of amazing flavors” description. Very nice — I can always count on you for some catchy language. 🙂

  7. Christopher Cousin says:

    M: We’re having this for dinner. Substituted lamb (grass and spoon fed with only organic gluten free sheep food). Everything is mise en place – but, did 2 things different than you recommend – browned the sweet potato w/ the onion and garlic and also put the meat, tomatoes (last ones from our garden), spices, chickpeas and coconut milk into a container in the fridge to marinate the afternoon away. Will pull it all together in a hour. Never used coconut oil….like hippie lard, eh?

    • Melissa says:

      Hippie lard? Well, I am a hippie girl at heart. And actually was a hippie girl back in the 70s (especially living in Taos). I use coconut oil for lots of things and love the stability and the subtle flavor it imparts. Plus, you can condition your hair with it and put it on your skin. Good stuff, for sure. It’s a medium-chain fatty acid, which is much easier on the digestive system. They’re digested differently than other fats. Coconut oil is very nourishing, protective and beneficial. Don’t freak out about it being a bad fat. It’s not. MCFA’s are like high-grade fuel. You’re a Ferrari, go with premium.

      We ate this stew for 3 days in various forms. Over brown rice. With kale added the last day. It was so good. It probably should have either lamb or pork in it, but my local choice was beef this time. Let me know how it comes out. Don’t you just love garam masala? Oh my gosh, that is the best spice blend ever.

      Love you!

  8. Christopher Cousin says:

    Melissa – I really liked the coconut oil and the smells it gave off with the lamb, onions and garlic. I’m going to rub it on my face tonight, see if it helps with my wrinkles.

    The stew came out pretty well. Lisa and I wonder about making it again sans meat. we served it over rice and also had some pita bread. We separated it out for the kids on a plate and they ate everything but the chickpeas. The broth was kickin’ THANKS! Another good one. Love you, NCFam

    • Melissa says:

      It’s the hippie lard that starts it off so yummy. =) And it’s divine as a hair conditioner. Did you have enough of the stew to eat it for a couple of days? It gets better as it ages (don’t we all). I wonder why the kids didn’t like the chickpeas? They’re so plain.

      I made a wonderful soup last night. I’ll post the recipe later.

      Love you, too! Kiss, kiss. xo

  9. Alta says:

    Oh my, this is my kind of stew. Spicy, sensual, and full of hearty goodness.

  10. What a great option when you have someone vegetarian over for dinner. And I’m crazy about Moroccan spices and spice blends. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Denise — and welcome. Yes, this is very easy to make vegetarian. And I agree, nothing better than this type of spice blend. The smell alone is wonderful.

  11. This stew looks fabulous, Melissa! The dates surprised me, but maybe that’s a Moroccan thing? I like dates in recipes though … just haven’t had them in a savory dish yet.

    Despite being an English major, I never read Proust. But your new nerdy book sounds very interesting. 😉


    • Melissa says:


      I don’t know whether the dates are a Moroccan thing or not. I just happened to have a batch sitting on the counter when I was making the stew, so I threw some in. I like raisins in curries and figured dates go well with garam masala. I was right, they are delish. The Proust book is about neuroscience, not literature. It’s a great book and you know I’m the whole neurological aspect of gluten toxicity, etc. I’ll fill you in on the details later.


  12. Stephanie says:

    So good! I love the idea of using garam masala instead of a dozen spices – so simple but so flavorful.

    I modified based on what I had on hand: the meat from 2 pork chops plus a leftover andouille sausage; instead of dates I used dried apricot and golden raisins; used a large can of fire-roasted tomato for some of the liquid; instead of cayenne I used a little bit of chipotle & ancho chili powders and smoked paprika. I didn’t have cilantro, so I used chopped carrot tops (“poor man’s parsley”). Oh, and I topped it with toasted peanuts for crunch – yummy!

    This recipe is goood & I can see that it’ll hold up to a lot of variation. I could see this going vegan without any problem. Thanks for the inspiration!

  13. […] treat!), but I didn’t have time for that. A long while back, I’d made a version of her sweet and spicy moroccan stew, and the warming spice blend in that recipe really tugged at me, but there was no time for that […]

  14. Billy says:

    cardamom, cinnamon, cayenne, clove, cumin, coriander and black pepper. Wow I’m jealous your the spice master.

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