Friday, 24 February 2012

Golden Vegetable Tagine with Couscous

A nice sunny day in the kitchen, making cheap, cheerful and very filling Veggie Tagine with Couscous.  Vegetable tagines are moveable feasts, depending on what's in season.  In the summer, I make them a little like a spiced ratatouille with peppers and tomatoes and aubergines.  In the winter, though, squashes and root veg take very well to warm North African spices so I used up some carrots and a butternut squash in this version.  I peeled and diced a large Spanish onion, 4 cloves of garlic and a 'thumb' of fresh ginger, and chopped them all quite fine.  Then I peeled and diced equal quantities of butternut squash and carrots.  Saute the onion, garlic and ginger in 3 tablespoons of olive oil - do this gently and slowly so it remains sweet and pale in colour.  Now prepare your spices: crumble a good pinch of saffron stamens in a tablespoon of hot water and let it sit for a few minutes to steep.  Measure out a heaped teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander and paprika (not the smoked variety).  Add to this a quarter teaspoon each of Cayenne pepper and ground cinnamon.  Add all the dried spices to the sweated onions and stir for a moment or two to 'awaken' the spice.  Now stir in the squash and carrots, the saffron water and a pint of veg stock (Marigold is fine).  Stir in a dessertspoon of tomato puree and a handful of chopped dried apricots (optional, but I like the sweetness in this dish).  Also tip in a 400g tin of drained, rinsed chickpeas (I like the East End brand). Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes or so until the veg is becoming tender.  Remove the lid and bubble off some of the liquid if it is watery.  Serve with rice, in which case add lots of chopped fresh coriander to the tagine, or I like to serve it with Lemon and Coriander couscous - instant couscous soaked in equal quantity-by-volume of boiling veg stock, into which a clove of garlic has been grated, lots of black pepper and a couple of spoons of olive oil.  Cover well and leave for 10 minutes, then squeeze in the juice of a lemon and masses of chopped coriander.  YUM-MEE!  If you have any ras-al-hanout spice mix, add a teaspoon to the tagine 5 minutes before serving, and if you like it really hot, add harissa to taste.

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