14 September 2013

Vegetable tajine

Hello, dear spice lovers! Apologies for the long silence around here. Other than approaching the end of my pregnancy and moving to a new (much bigger) apartment (with a HUGE kitchen by the way!), my domain name had expired, unbeknownst to me. Turned out that it was sold by the bad folks at GoDaddy.com, without any warning! Grrrrrrr. So I've reincarnated with a new domain (via a new host of course)....http://www.mistress-of-spices.net! Be sure to update your links and streams, and please do bare with me if some of the links on the page are broken...I'm working on fixing them all bit by bit! In the meanwhile, I wanted to share with you a wonderful recipe for a vegetable tajine. You've probably figured out by now that Luis and I are both huge fans of Moroccan and other North African food. In our years in Paris, food from this part of the world was a regular part of our repertoire. We've also traveled in Morocco and loved it there. So even though it's quite far removed from our lives here in Thailand, we still regularly make Moroccan food. Case in point...this delicious tajine!

A tajine is a typical Berber dish from North Africa, named for the conical earthenware dish in which it's cooked. Typically speaking, tajines are made out of clay, and the cone shape ensures that all of the condensation accumulated during the cooking process returns to the bottom part of the dish, thus allowing for perfectly cooked vegetables. We don't have a clay or cast-iron tajine but rather the beautiful one pictured above, which is a ceramic one from Tunisia gifted to me by my former boss. It's not meant for cooking but rather serving. In any case, a tajine can easily be made in any pot so no special equipment is needed...though if you do invest in a tajine it will definitely make for a beautiful and authentic presentation. Regardless of the vessel you use, the key to a good tajine is to layer the vegetables such that those that take the longest to cook are at the bottom of the dish...and it's very cool how everything cooks perfectly this way! This particular recipe, by the way, is adapted from Cooking with Alia, a wonderful Moroccan cooking website.

Typical non-vegetarian tajines include chicken with olives and preserved lemons or lamb with prunes and almonds. For a vegetable version, you can use whatever veggies you fancy or have on hand...my personal favorite mix is as below. I always make sure to cut up and add a preserved lemon at the end, for a true taste of the Maghreb. Preserved lemons can be found in Middle Eastern or North African groceries, or you can always make your own as well (Luis brought back lots of preserved lemons on his last trip to Paris, as they certainly aren't available here in Bangkok).

A word about the ras el hanout which forms a part of the spice mix. In Arabic, this spice blend literally means "top of the shop", meaning a blend of some of the best spices on offer in the shop (typically ginger, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric and all kinds of other goodies). Middle Eastern and North African grocers (and perhaps some specialty spice shops) would also be your best bet for finding ras el hanout. There are also tons of recipes for it on the web, so feel free to make your own. Harissa, the traditional Tunisian chili paste, can also be found at the same places or in gourmet food stores. It's optional for serving alongside, but I can't imagine a good tajine without it!

Typically speaking, a tajine is served with semolina bread, but we prefer to have it with couscous. It's your choice! This recipe makes a good quantity which also makes for great leftovers.

Serves 6
Adapted from Cooking with Alia

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon ras el hanout
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Ginger powder, to taste
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced into thin rounds
6-8 new potatoes, peeled
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into long wedges
1/2 acorn squash, peeled and chopped into large chunks/wedges
2 zucchini, halved and chopped into large wedges
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup pitted green olives, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 - 1/2 cup dried raisins (I didn't have any so used pomegranate seeds - not at all traditional!)
1 large preserved lemon, quartered
Harissa for serving, optional

1. In a large glass or bowl, mix together the garlic, all of the spices, salt and the water. Mix well with a small spoon until everything is blended together into a nice murky water. Set aside.

2. In a clay tajine or a large pot, warm the olive oil. If you're using a tajine, use low heat, whereas medium heat is fine for a regular pot. Add the onions and saute for 5-10 minutes, until translucent.

3. Layer the vegetables on top of the onion, beginning with the potatoes and carrots, followed by the squash and then the zucchini.

4. Pour the spice water over the vegetables. Cover your tajine or pot and let the mixture cook for 45 minutes to an hour. From time to time, ladle some of the spice water on top of the vegetables.

5. As the tajine nears the end of the cooking process, add the quick-cooking vegetables such as green peas and the other ingredients (olives, chickpeas, raisins and preserved lemons).

6. Test the potatoes and carrots to make sure they are tender. Remove the lid and cook on medium for an additional 10-15 minutes.

7. Serve in the tajine that you used for cooking or a decorative tajine. Remove lid/cone just before serving and serve with harissa on the side, if desired.

1 comment:

  1. Been dreaming of a tajine for the past few weeks. I love making it. With fall definitely approaching NYC, the cozy warmth of it is enticing me! Love this tajine of yours...soo gorgeous.