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Saturday, 26 February 2011

Vegetable Tagine

Firstly, a big thanks to everyone who has been reading and commenting on the blog, I really appreciate it.  And please do feel free to recommend cookbooks, ingredients and cooking styles; this really is an adventure for me so I’d love any input.  And of course you can invite yourself over for a meal :) 

I have now been living in my flat for five months, and its been really fantastic.  I really have to say a big thanks to my fabulous flatmates, Hannah and DY.  For anyone considering moving in London, I love Willesden, it rocks.  One of the best things about living in the flat, for me is hosting Friday night dinners. The first ever Friday night dinner was hosted in October, before we had a table or any chairs.  We arranged the living room with rugs and cushions around a central low table made of cardboard boxes and it was beautiful, I wish I had taken a picture. Due to the lack of conventional Friday night dinner seating, the food had to be the kind of thing that could be eaten from a bowl, with just a fork, and so the Moroccan theme was born.
Dinner in Essaouira

I went to Morocco for 2 weeks a few summers ago, and while I am in no-way any kind of expert on Moroccan food, we did eat a great deal of it when we were there (please message me if you are thinking of going and want any advice).  This dish really does taste like Morocco.  By which I mean, incredibly warming and summery at the same time, spiced but not spicy and incredibly complex.

This recipe is actually not from a book I own, but from the BBC food website.  Difficulty 2/5 time: 30 mins prep, 1/ 1 ½ hours cooking.  Reheats very well too.  Tastes 4/5 I have now made this tagine twice, and it worked perfectly the first time, slightly less so the second time, because I put too much liquid in it.  I know this seems like a complicated recipe, but its actually really simple, essentially you are just making a delicious marinade, and cooking stuff in it.  yes I know that wasn’t at my usual standards of eloquence.

For the chermoula
1 red pepper
 4 cloves
 3 tsp coriander seeds
 3 tsp cumin seeds
 3 cloves garlic
1 red chilli
1 tsp smoked paprika
bunches coriander
bunches flat leaf parsley
10 leaves mint
1 lemon, juice and zest only

For the vegetables
8 baby shallots, (or small baby onions)
400 g sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
 1 fennel, quartered
 3 kipfler potatoes, cut into chunks
1 red pepper, cut into thick strips
3 baby aubergines, cut in half length ways
1 courgette, cut into about 6 disks
4 roma tomatoes, cut in half
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
10 prunes, pitted
 500 ml vegetable stock
 400 g canned or cooked chickpeas (optional)

1. For the chermoula (Wikipedia definition here): grill the red pepper on all sides until the skin is blackened and the flesh is soft.  This first time I made this our oven had not been koshered yet, and so I stuck a fork in the pepper and blackened it over a flame on the hob.  Using the grill, as I did when I made it more recently is much much easier, but make sure that you put some foil under the pepper, as a lot of goo comes out and it will be a massive hassle to clean the grill pan/tray.  Put the pepper in a sandwich bag or a bowl covered with cling film, and leave it sealed and steaming for at least 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, lightly roast the cloves, coriander and cumin seeds in dry drying pan. Tip the spices into a mortar and pound until sufficiently broken down.
3. Remove the red pepper from the bowl, peel of the skin, remove the seeds and pound with the spices until mushy.  Then add the herbs (finely chopped) and bash again.  The original recipe suggested using a blender/food processor, which would work better but I don’t have one (I do, but its lost in the garage).  Anyway, what’s lovely about this is that the pepper stays a little lumpy, and the herbs stay distinct too, which would all be lost if you used a blender.

4. For the vegetables: coat the vegetables in the chermoula mix and lightly fry in a large heavy based saucepan or tagine.  Obviously it is totally up to you whichever veggies you decide to use, I have yet to make this with fennel or baby shallots, but large onions in slices seems to work pretty well too. 

5. Top with tomatoes (I just used a can), cinnamon, bay leaf (I didn’t use this), prunes and vegetable stock. Cover and cook for about 1 hour until the vegetables are just tender. Add cooked chickpeas (if using) and cook for a further 30 minutes.

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