Aubergine, Fennel and Bean Stew

This beautifully simple aubergine, fennel and bean stew is a healthy, hearty vegetarian main course. Taken from the brilliant The Happy Pear cookbook, it has bags of flavour and makes a great meat-free family meal.

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This has lovely hints of aniseed from the fennel, musky undertones of cumin and the subtle aromas of cardamom. It tastes even better the next day.

Serves 4-6


2 medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
½ a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger
1 fresh green chilli
700g pumpkin
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp oil
3 tbsp tamari, Bragg Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
1 tsp paprika
3 tsp salt
1 x 400g tin of black beans
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp ground turmeric
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp honey or agave syrup
1 small bunch of fresh coriander
100g baby spinach


Peel the onions, garlic and ginger, then finely chop the onions, and crush or chop the garlic and ginger. De-seed and finely chop the chilli. Cut the aubergines and pumpkin into bite-size pieces, leaving the skin on the pumpkin.

Put the cumin and fennel seeds into a dry frying pan and cook on a medium heat for a few minutes, until they start to release their aroma and start crackling. Transfer the seeds to a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder and grind them to a fine powder.

Put the oil into a large pan over a high heat and let it heat up for about 2 minutes. Once it is hot, add the onions and turn the heat to low to medium. Saute the onions for 5 minutes with the lid on, stirring regularly. Add the garlic, chilli, ginger and the ground cumin and fennel and cook covered for a further 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the aubergines, along with the tamari and paprika. Leave to cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes on a low to medium heat, stirring regularly. Add water a tablespoon at a time if anything starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. After a few minutes the aubergines should start to break up.

Put the pumpkin into a separate pan with 1 teaspoon of salt and enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender. Drain and set aside.

Drain the beans and rinse thoroughly. Stir the cardamom, turmeric and 2 tablespoons of water into the pan of aubergines and cook for one minute. Add the beans, tinned tomatoes, honey, pumpkin and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and turn the heat up high. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer for 15 minutes.

Five minutes before serving, finely chop the coriander and add to the pan with the spinach. Great served with brown rice or flatbreads if you have time to make them.

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