A Taste of Morocco in Harira Soup

Sometimes my creativity takes me out of the studio and into the kitchen. So how about we go from Mayne Island to Morocco?

A few years ago I found the most delicious Moroccan soup in one of the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks. This Harira soup, in its many variations, is usually eaten to break the fast in the evening meal during the Muslim time of Ramadan which will begin on or close to July 20th in 2012. Just the smell of this fragrant soup being prepared has me smiling with satisfaction and delight. It is a great addition any time of the year to inspire freshness and renewal.

I have made some adaption to the recipe, of course – as any creative person might.

Terrill’s Taste of Morocco Harira Soup

1 cup chopped onions

4 cups vegetable Stock

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds or a bit of fresh fennel

1 large table-spoon finely chopped fresh ginger

A tiny pinch of cayenne

3 or 4 peeled or unpeeled and chopped carrots

2 finely chopped sticks of celery

3 or 4 medium chopped organic tomatoes

(you can leave the peal on if you like but be careful not to get too much tomato as it can overpower this delicate soup)

3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes washed peeled or unpeeled and chopped soup size

(any firm-meat potato will do as will no potato at all)

A small pinch of saffron soaked in warm water ahead of time to release its goodness

1 small (14 ounce) can of organic lentils

1 small (14 ounce) can of organic chickpeas

A good squeeze of Lemon Juice

A dash of Madeira if you have it

A bit of good black pepper and sea salt to taste (a sprinkle of cherry wood smoked rock sea salt is nice)

A nice clump of fresh cilantro chopped

(a must unless you hate it then use parsley)

Sauté the onions in large a soup pot with a bit of olive oil. Add in spices and ginger. Then add carrots and celery followed by vegetable stock and potatoes and finally the tomatoes. Simmer until potatoes are tender. Now add lentils, chickpeas and saffron. Heat through but do not over cook. The celery will tell you when it is cooked just the right amount for you. Add Madeira, lemon, sea salt and pepper very last.

Serve with fresh cilantro and lemon wedges and a smile. We had crackers too but you could have hard-boiled eggs on the side just as easily.

Please feel free to substitute many items in this recipe while keeping the spices consistent. Small amounts of meat can be added such as beef, lamb or chicken. This time I added a little cabbage and it was a nice addition. I didn’t have enough onions so I used a shallot. Tomatoes are not in season so I used canned tomatoes and so on. But always keep the cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, saffron, lemon, fresh cilantro and the tiniest pinch of cayenne.


Side note: this is one of the few soups that I make which tastes best on the day it is made. It is a large pot of soup so invite friends.

Today is my daughter Josie’s birthday and I know how much she loves soup and foods that fill her senses with their natural goodness. Happy Birthday Josie!

SPROUT: What foods fill all your senses with their natural goodness?

© 2012 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at http://terrillwelchartist.com

Why I hung a $2,420 original oil painting for sale at our local Farm Gate grocery store.

Does it seem odd to you that I would accept an invitation to hang one of my large fine art original oil paintings in a grocery store? Well, let me explain. The Mayne Island Farm Gate store is not just any old place you go to get your fruit, vegetables, dairy meat, eggs and other delicious goods. Farm Gate has the finest of fine of everything that is local or just plain excellent.

Take the frozen meat cooler for instance stocked with local organic grass-fed beef, succulent lamb, decadent chicken and more.

A stew for Farm Gate with its delicate vegetables fresh from the garden is a stew to remember.

But the Farm Gate story is not just about what is good to buy. Farm Gate is about what is good about us. Most places on Mayne Island are friendly and helpful but Farm Gate takes community, friends and family to the very heart of our experience.

A coffee anyone?

Or maybe you would like to take a pound of this micro-roasted organic, fair-trade, shade-grown, bird-friendly black gold home instead?

How many of you actually know the person who makes the hummus in your local grocery store? How many of you would be delighted rather than surprised when that same person saw your vehicle in the parking lot and came in to say ‘hello” complete with an island-size hug?

Since we were both there it was a great photo opportunity. Just in from gardening here is Barbara at her working best.

Barbara McIntyre of Nomadic Routes Inc. is the same Barbara that is showing her photography at the Green House Restaurant with me. By the way, we are hanging a new show this afternoon if you want to drop in, have a bite and say hello. But back to hummus – Barbara’s organic Moroccan Hummus is a reason all by itself to stop by Farm Gate. Or you may prefer one of her kayak-travel-proof-decorated-wax-covered-chocolate-truffles. Delicious! Sssssppttt! There on the left end of the checkout counter – an easy reach. No one will say anything if you buy three.

In fact, some things at Farm Gate are so good they have to be shared with friends far away. On Laurie Buchanan’s Speaking from the Heart blog post today she tells about receiving a package from me in the mail. For those of you that know us both, it is no surprise that we have an equal passion for the precious cargo sent by air mail and arriving in a plain brown package.

When Don and Shanti, the owners of Farm Gate, asked if I would be interested in hanging some of my original oil paintings I hesitated for a second. Not because it was a grocery store but because it was such a fine grocery store. The walls are spacious with high ceiling and already well appointed with their own collection of fine art. So I thought about the work I had available at the close of the STUDY of BLUE solo exhibition which was showing at the Oceanwood Restaurant and Inn. I decided I had two pieces that were large enough and would fit well in the store. There was the painting ONE shown here and KEEPING WATCH a painting of the same size (and same price) – but it sold that same week. So when I brought ONE to hang in the spot we had agreed, even though it is 24 X 36 inches, it looked rather lost in the large space above the door next to the 25 pound bags of floor on the back wall.

Don came by as I was finishing up and said “I think you are going to need a bigger sign than that – something that actually says in big letters FOR SALE. You need to catch people’s attention.”

Don was right. The small gallery sign I had was not going to do it. So off I went to make a new sign. When I came back my painting had been upgraded. Yes, just like in a fine hotel, it now had the premium suite. They had moved one of their own collector pieces to the original location of my painting and placed ONE front and centre in the best light, with the best exposure. I was overwhelmed by the gesture. Imagine someone taking the time and creativity to think through what would work best to show my work.

That is the kind of place Farm Gate is. Besides fine groceries and fine art, the Farm Gate store is about being fine people –where your best interests are their best interests. Friendly and caring does not adequately describe this kind of lived intention. It is with great pleasure and equal honour that my original oil paint ONE hangs for sale at the Farm Gate Store.

I am sure that along with your freshly picked white cucumbers, basket of raspberries and lamb burgers for the BBQ, Erin would be happy to accept a cheque made out to Terrill Welch for the sum of $2,420 and help you package ONE for safe transport to your own fine Mayne Island retreat or other far away destination of equal fine taste. But those two little packages on the bottom far left. You can’t have those. That is David and mine’s lunch – grill zucchini, onion, and red pepper with goat cheese on a freshly baked organic croissant.  Huuuttt! I see you! Okay, you can have a bite.

There is a verse in one of Muriel Rukeyser poem’s “The Speed of Darkness” that comes to mind:

Time comes into it.

Say it.       Say it.

The universe is made of stories,

not of atoms.

I am so pleased to be part of the Farm Gate story.

Sprout question: What stories are you pleased to be part of?

© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island ,British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at http://terrillwelchartist.com

A Friendly Farm Gate Chat

Dear readers, how would you like to go shopping with us today? Remember, I can see when you roll your eyes. I promise it will be a shopping trip like no other you have likely been on recently. Today is the opening of Mayne Island’s Farm Gate store.

Farm Gate is the dream and shared vision of Don and Shanti McDougall who own and operate Mayne Island’s Deacon Vale Farm. Striving for local, organic and the best ingredients, the Farm Gate Store experience is about getting beyond either or thinking. When you have a love for food and community like the McDougalls this is no surprise.

At  the storefront we stopped to look at a great new sculpture by local artist and cob home expert Pat Hennebery.

Here we are at the Farm Gate store’s side entrance. A family has arrived ahead of us on bicycles to Mayne Island’s newest food place at the edge of the woods.

We are thinking maybe we will go by bicycle next visit. As we go inside we are greeted warmly by friends and neighbours and the store owners alike.

There are no strangers at the Farm Gate Store. Only new friends.

Customers decide between all of the quality choices local to “the islands” and British Columbia and a few exceptional import goods.

Locally, in our northern hemisphere, this time of year there are mostly  kale, mushrooms and a few greens and winter vegetables.

And please don’t tell anyone but I dislike kale. I know that is not very back-to-earth of me but I just can’t help it. To have the best eco-friendly variety and a balanced diet is to eat what is local, organic and in season closest to us.

Okay, so opening morning, one hour after being oriented on a new check out system that has just been installed, can be a little daunting. Though the learning curve is steep for the tellers, even young customers are happy to chill.

After all, this is the event of our day – no need to rush out the door to plant the spring peas. They will wait.

So let’s see some of the things we brought home. I have laid them out on a Deacon Vale Farm apron I was given in the check out line up.

I did not need a gift for waiting but I shall treasure it for its thoughtfulness and to remember the pleasure of opening day at the Farm Gate Store. We mostly bought celebratory foods. Partly because we know we can go back again for “a real shop” and partly because today truly was to celebrate. We wanted to have a friendly Farm Gate chat to welcome the Farm Gate Store as neighbours to neighbours.

Hum, I suppose I must confess that the hippie chip purchase was mostly for their name …… but they are also delicious!

See was I right? Are you not glad you came shopping with us today? If you are interested, there are more photos and information on the Farm Gate Store Facebook page.

Three cheers for community supported agriculture! Remember, the closer the greens are from the garden to your plate the more tasty goodness.

Sprout question: What locally grown foods feed your creativity?

Introducing Terrill Welch’s Online Gallery at http://terrillwelchartist.com

© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada