As I write this, it is 4 am in the morning and I cannot sleep; I am far too excited for BT Vancouver in four hours. I feel like a kid at Christmas; but with a little more appreciation for the wonderful opportunity I have been given. Truth be told, I was awake at 2 am but after finishing my book, taking a shower and touching up my manicure, I thought that I could use this time more usefully. So here I am, writing about Moroccan Stew at 4am in the morning.

I know what you’re thinking “Bianca, you’ll regret not sleeping”; and in a few hours I may agree with you, but for now I want to talk about this stew.

This is one of those stick to your ribs kind of meals that full of flavor and spice; but not spice for spice sake. Oh no, the spice in this dish provides a complexity of flavors that as you continue to eat they develop more on your palate. What’s more, this stew is chocked full of vegetables, which helps to keep Ms. Digestion happy and in working order. And the crowning jewel of this dish is, hands down, sweet potato.

Sweet potato, although the name would suggest, is in fact not related at all to the potato; it is a member of the morning glory family. They’re sweet, dark and one of the oldest vegetables known to man; having been around since prehistoric times; not many vegetable can say that they kicked it with T-Rex.

This starchy carbohydrate is high in fiber, half of which is soluble, and an incredibly rich source of beta carotene; a powerful antioxidant in the carotenoid family. And you know I am a heart health warrior and, if you’re like me, then sweet potatoes should be kept in your back pocket; as they are loaded with vitamin A and heart healthy potassium and a smidge of calcium. If that weren’t enough to convert you into a lover of this sacchariferous root vegetable, a medium sized sweet tater has a modest 103 calories! Whatever you do, DON’T forget to eat the skin- it’s the best part and contains the most fiber.

There are two different types of sweet potatoes; moist (orange fleshed) and dry (yellow fleshed); both are delicious. However, the moist fleshed variety are often called yams, which is a misnomer, as true yams are a large root vegetables with origins in Africa; so whether moist and orange or yellow and dry, the health benefits are the same!

In this dish the sweet potato tempers the heat from the spices with its characteristic sweetness; and as they break down during cooking they serve to thicken the broth and elevate this to a true stew. This is the perfect meatless meal; however, for the diehard carnivores among us, customization is welcome, simply by adding diced chicken to the pot with the spices and allowing the chicken to brown we make this meatless meal, meaty.

This is one of those dishes that gets better with age; on the second and even third day the “ooohs” and “aahhhh” will be discernible from the down the street!

Serves 4

2 tbsp coconut oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp ginger, peeled and minced

½ tsp chili pepper flakes

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

¼ tsp allspice

¼ tsp ground coriander

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 medium zucchini, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

¼ small head of green cabbage, shredded

1-19 oz can chickpea, drained and rinsed

1 tsp sea salt

½ cup fresh mint, chopped

*2 chicken breast, cubed

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat, add the garlic, ginger, chili flakes, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, pepper, allspice, coriander and chicken (optional). Stir for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots and cabbage. Pour in enough water or vegetable stock to cover the vegetables, about 5 to 6 cups.

Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender but not completely cooked. Ladle out 1 ½ cups of the vegetables and 1 ½ cups of the broth and puree in a blender until thick. Return to the remaining stew.

Mix in the chickpeas and add the salt, bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, for an additional 10-15 minutes. Stir in the mint and serve over quinoa or bulgur wheat.