Wednesday 20 November 2013

Vegetable Tagine

If you're no stranger to the blog then you're no stranger to my affinity for North African food, Moroccan in particular. Tonight I made a quick vegetable tagine for dinner. A tagine is cooking vessel made from clay with a flat base and a cone lid. The dish prepared in a tagine is also called tagine. Meat and/or vegetables are stewed in the tagine with spices. The clay imparts a certain rustic flavour to the dish and the coned shape of the lid forces all the condensation to collect inside on the walls and roll back down into the sauce creating a mouthwatering, saucy meal. I have a tagine, but there are certain measures one must take when using it. You can just as easily make a tagine in a regular pot with a lid. We're just going to go over the pot method for now. One of these days I'll go over another dish with the actual tagine that I have. 

This is the first recipe on the blog that calls for a spice called sumac. Sumac (or sumach) is popular in North African dishes but may be hard to find depending on where you live/shop. If you can't find it at a specialty market, you can surely find it online. Sumac is a deep, garnet coloured spice made from the ground fruit/flowers of the same name. It has an aromatic, almost lemony flavour that's very interesting. It goes great with meat, fish, rice, salads and makes a great garnish for hummus and contributes to other spice blends. If you can't find it, you can simply omit it and your tagine will still be fantastic. You can substitute paprika, which won't taste anything like sumac, but will assist in adding a bit of colour. 


1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 can chickpeas (540 ml/19 oz), rinsed and drained
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups water or broth of your choice
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped 
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp oil for frying
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp sumac

Over medium heat, warm 2 tbsp of oil in a heavy bottom pan and add the onion and carrot. A pinch of salt will help to draw out the natural liquids of the vegetables. Stir occasionally for about five to seven minutes or until the onion softens. 

Add the garlic and sautée for a minute or two. Then add all of the spices and stir for one minute. The spices will burn so it's important not to cook them for too long. A minute is just enough time to wake up the flavour of the spices without burning them.

Add the water or brother and stir to incorporate. Bring the liquid up to a simmer. Then place the lid on the pot, reduce the heat to low, and leave it for 15 minutes.

Remove the lid from the pot and add the zucchini and chickpeas. Stir and bring the heat up to medium/medium-high to allow the liquid to come back up to a simmer. 

Let the tagine simmer, uncovered, for about ten minutes or until the sauce has reduced to the consistency of your liking. Stir in half of the fresh mint and cilantro one minute before removing from the heat. Eat with couscous or bread. When plating, garnish the tagine with sesame seeds and the remaining herbs.

Most tagine are slow cooked and can take several hours but this one is quick, simple and perfect for a weeknight dinner when you're on the go. Any leftovers will make a terrific lunch the next day because the flavours will continue to evolve and deepen in the fridge. As always, taste for seasoning before serving and adjust if necessary.

The holidays are just around the corner and that usually means a lot of indulging and caloric intake. It doesn't hurt to eat healthy before and after the holiday binge. Here is a great way to do that. Feel free to adapt this recipe any way you want. There are tons of other vegetables that make a beautiful vegetarian tagine.

In the meantime, be happy and keep cooking.


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