Thursday, 16 February 2012

Vegetable tagine

I tweeted in passing the other week that I'd rustled up a vegetable tagine and someone tweeted back to ask for the recipe. Alas, I hadn't taken any photos or made any proper notes of what I was doing.

I'd originally planned to make a vegetable curry - the night before, I'd had a Spanish takeaway and ended up with half a carton of leftovers from a chickpea and spinach dish. I also had a sweet potato that needed to be eaten and a red pepper in the fridge. Then I discovered I had no curry paste in the cupboard, but I remembered I did have a jar of tagine paste. And voila, dinner!

The recipe here is for is my original dish from the other week, the photo is what I knocked up last week, with slightly different vegetables. I must say, the original looked prettier - with lots of contrasting colours - but for me tagine is as much about the flavours as the look and sometimes the tastiest flavour combinations don't necessarily look attractive.

What you need:
1 onion, roughly chopped
A clove of garlic, chopped
1 small sweet potato
2 small carrots
1/2 tin chickpeas
1 red or green pepper, deseeded and sliced
A small bunch of spinach
Tagine paste (Al'fez, from most supermarkets)
A handful of stoned olives
1 preserved lemon (can buy in most supermarkets)
Small handful fresh coriander 

What to do:  
Boil the kettle. Sauté the chopped onion in a glug of olive oil. When it's soft and translucent, add half a small jar of tagine paste and fry for 2 minutes. Add the diced sweet potato, sliced carrot rounds, sliced red pepper and the chick peas. Throw in 3-4 lumps of frozen spinach (or use a small bag of washed fresh). Stir through and add the boiling water to make a sauce). Add a handful of stoned black olives and a preserved lemon, sliced finely. Put a tight lid on and turn down the heat. Simmer until the root vegetables are tender. Finish with a little chopped fresh coriander and eat with flatbreads.

Cook's notes:
Tagine is a Moroccan dish and can be made with meat too. It's also the name of the clay pot it's cooked in - a round, flattish dish with a tall, conical lid. The pot goes in the oven at a low temperature to braise slowly and the lid acts as a funnel to keep the steam circulating, ensuring the food won't dry out. A decent sauteuse will do the job well on a hob, or transfer the ingredients to a casserole once before you add the hot water and pop it into a moderate oven for an hour or two.

Olives are pretty much an essential for any kind of tagine and many recipes include preserved lemon, a staple in Moroccan cooking. Dried fruit of all sorts is often added - apricots, figs, dates and prunes all pop up regularly, making a good sweet/savoury contrast with the other ingredients - particularly if you're using meat (lamb and chicken being the most common).