Vegan Aubergine, Butternut Squash & Chestnut Tagine


A VEGAN FAVOURITE
A MOROCCAN TAGINE OF AUBERGINES, BUTTERNUT SQUASH, CHESTNUTS, APRICOTS AND PRUNES

 

Tagines are so wonderfully healthy, nutritious and really delicious! If you like your food to be fragrant and spice infused then a Tagine is the way to go. Years ago when I visited Morocco, the scent of slow cooking and roasting pervaded the souks (outdoor markets). When I think of Morocco, I think of the scents of cumin, star anise, cinnamon, harissa and ras el hanout. My memories of Morocco are both good and bad. I loved the architecture and the vibrant colours. I got lost in the souks and sniffed perfumed oils for hours. The bad, specifically for me, was my inability to eat. Morocco is beautiful but it is not the most hygienic of places. Some people simply don’t bother with cleanliness but I am very concerned with it and I do want to know if my chef has washed his hands, is using clean equipment, is not sweating into my food, that he is aware of flies and that he does not spit near or around the kitchen area. I saw a lot of things in Morocco that haunt me and turn my stomach to this day. But of course, you don’t have to travel to experience this flavour filled dish. It can be prepared and simply made in your own kitchen and to your own standards.

EQUIPMENT:

Tagine or any deep ceramic stock pot that can withstand the heat of an oven.
(Instead of the traditional Tagine, I prefer to use my Le Creuset oval French Oven because I can use it on top of the stove to roast the spices)

INGREDIENTS:

Spices:
1/2 tsp harissa
1/2 tsp ras el hanout
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp cinnamon powder
2 star anise, crushed
1 tsp ground tumeric
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tsp sweet smoked spanish paprika
salt to taste

Fruit:
2 pickled lemons (recipe to follow)
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped apricots
1 cup chopped dried figs

Nuts:
1 cup chopped pistachios
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chestnuts

Vegetables & Legumes:
1 onion, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
2 large tomatos, chopped
1 tsp tomato paste
1 large aubergine, cubed
half of a large butternut squash, cubed
2 cups of pre-soaked and boiled chick peas (garbanzo beans, channa)
1 cups of pre-soaked red lentils
2 cups of pre-soaked green lentils

Herbs:
half cup chipped coriander leaves
half cup chopped parsley leaves
3 generous tablespoons fresh chopped mint leaves

Grains:
Millet (if you are wheat and gluten free)
Cous Cous (if you are wheat and gluten tolerant)
Measure proportionally according to your needs

Liquid:
1 pint vegetable stock

METHOD FOR QUICK PICKLED LEMONS:

Make sure that your two large lemons are wax free. Wash them scrupulously with a small scrubbing brush. Slice the lemons into medium sized rings. Chop the rings into quarters. Place in a small saucepan which has been half filled with water. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Place on the stove and bring to a rapid boil. After the water and lemons have started boiling turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and place a lid on the saucepan. Let it cook quietly and undisturbed for about 40 minutes. Test for the right consistency by rinsing a piece of lemon rind under the faucet and tasting. It should be very soft and almost melt in your mouth. The flavour should be slightly salty, lemony,tangy and slightly sweet. There should be no overpowering bitterness. If you find it to be too bitter, simply keep cooking until you have reached the desired flavour.

METHOD FOR THE TAGINE:

  1. If you are using an enameled french oven like the le creuset, place it on the stove and cover the bottom with either good quality extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a french oven pot, any small saucepan will do the job. Turn the heat to medium and wait for the oil to sizzle. Add all of your dried spices, toss to coat evenly with the oil. Keep stirring to avoid burning. If you allow the spices to burn, you will have to start all over again with fresh spices, as the flavour of burnt spices will ruin the taste of your tagine. Turn the heat down when the spices begin to pop and brown. Keep stirring constantly. Cook your spices on a low to medium heat for approx 7-10 mins.
  2. Transfer your spice mixture to a large saucepan or a dutch or french oven pot. If you were already using an enameled iron pot (stove to oven type, just continue on with the same pot). Add all of the prepared vegetables except the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir to coat evenly in the roasted spice mixture. Cook on a medium to high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir. Throw in the stock and all of the nuts and fruit. Add a pinch of salt and stir to blend and coat all of your ingredients in the stock and tomato mixture.
  3. Add the pickled lemons and fresh herbs and stir.
  4. Cover the pot and turn the heat down to a very low simmer. If you are using a saucepan, just keep it on the stove and check every 20 minutes. You’ll want to keep an eye on the liquid level so your tagine does not become dried out. If you would like to switch to an authentic tagine pot or a ceramic casserole dish, do so now and place in the oven at about 300 F. If you are using a dutch or french oven pot you have the choice of continuing to cook on the stove top at a low heat of 250 F or transfer to the oven. Either way, you will want set your timer for 50-55 mins.
  5. Test the readiness of your tagine dish by tasting the aubergine, lentils and squash. The texture should be soft and it should melt in your mouth.
  6. Cook your millet or cous cous according to your preferred method.
  7. Serve and enjoy.
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