Monday, 19 December 2011

Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

Before I start, allow me to confess that I have a) never been to Morocco and b) do not own a tagine. However, while this recipe may not be authentic in its preparation or the length of its ingredient list, it is definitely reminiscent of the dishes I have eaten in Moroccan restaurants. The subtle, warming spiciness of harissa lifts the roasted veggies to new flavour heights and has made this dish an overnight family favorite.

Harissa is a North African spice blend that is readily available in the spice aisle in most UK grocery stores. I have seen it in some stores in North America as well, and of course it is available on line. It’s not an overpowering spice mixture, and in small quantities provides a gorgeous, warming heat with no burn. Of course, it you like things extra spicy there is no reason why you can’t use more harissa paste than I did in this recipe, but I urge you to go carefully. Remember you can always add more spice but you can’t take it away!

Traditional tagine dishes are cooked for a very long time to melting gorgeousness, but by keeping this recipe vegetarian I was able to get the slow cooked flavour without the long cooking time. It’s also incredibly easy to prepare and the addition of the chickpeas adds a nutritional boost to make this a complete meal. Consider using wholewheat couscous as well for even more goodness. This recipe will serve 4 to 5 people generously.

Here’s how easy it is.

Peel (where necessary) and chop about two to three cups of vegetables. I like to use red onion, carrots, parsnips, mushrooms, zucchini (courgettes), red pepper and eggplant (aubergine). Cut vegetables that are more dense (such as parsnips and carrots) in smaller pieces to help them cook more quickly.

Toss the vegetables in ¼ cup olive oil and ½ to 1 tsp harissa. (I use a half teaspoon.) Roast in a hot oven (about 400ºF or 200ºC) for 30 to 40 minutes, or until lightly golden, turning once half way through.

Meanwhile, gently heat ½ cup to ¾ cup tomato sauce in a medium saucepan over medium to low heat. Drain and rinse one 14 ounce can of chickpeas. Add the chickpeas to the tomato sauce and gently heat through. Now add the roasted vegetables and stir to mix through. If necessary, add a little more tomato sauce to keep them moist, but not saucy.

Heat about 4 cups vegetable stock almost to boiling in a saucepan. Stir in ½ to 1 tsp harissa (again I used half a teaspoon) . Put 2 cups couscous in a large bowl and pour 3½ cups of the spiced stock over top. Cover and let sit for five minutes. Fluff with a fork, adding a bit more stock if necessary to give an al dente texture.

Serve the vegetables on a bed of couscous in warmed bowls or on warmed plates.

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