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Feeling the drop in temperature this week? These tagine recipes are the ultimate seasonal comfort food.
There’s no use denying it: colder, shorter and darker days are here to stay. So, as we prepare for our annual hibernation – and get ready to make our way through all of BBC iPlayer (and Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime…) – we’re also in need of hearty, seasonal recipes. When it comes to comfort food, we crave dishes that can be eaten unashamedly on the sofa from our favourite bowl, with nothing but a fork (or spoon) required. Forget bland and beige, this winter we’re satisfying all our senses with slow-cooked tagines.
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Referring to both the North African stew as well as the traditional clay or ceramic pot that is used to cook the dish in, most agree that the tagine’s origin dates back to the late 18th century when Harun al Rashid ruled the Islamic Empire. Though traditionalists may class a dish cooked without the earthenware pot not strictly a tagine, other aspects such as a long, slow cooking time and a wealth of warming spices also characterise the dish. So, don’t worry if you don’t have a tagine dish stashed somewhere in the back of your kitchen cupboards, you can still make the below recipes using your trusty Le Creuset – with the results promising to be just as good.
Typically, tagines feature less expensive cuts of meat as the elongated cooking times are ideal for tenderising tougher cuts. Though recipes often call for lamb, we’re sharing five twists on the traditional – including two options for non-meat eaters to see you through autumn, winter and beyond.
First up is Ghillie Basan’s recipe for chorizo tagine with lentils and fenugreek. The chorizo imparts its signature smoky spice to the dish, while the addition of lentils add a comforting heartiness that’s much needed when temperatures drop.
Next, we have Alice Zaslavsky’s recipe for seven-spice butternut tagine. This vegetarian main makes use of butternut squash in both grated and diced form, with the cubed squash roasted with red peppers until soft and sweet, and the grated cooked low and slow in the spiced stew that also features black pepper, cumin, ground coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom.
Chermoula, a bright and flavorful North African condiment, is a key component of Jennifer Joyce’s recipe for chermoula, tomato and fish tagine – used as both a marinade for the fish and to impart its wonderful flavour into the rich, tomato stew. Though it’s best to leave the fish to marinate for up to an hour, the rest of this flavour-packed recipe comes together in just 20 minutes for a speedy weeknight winner.
Looking for the kind of recipe you can prep in 15 minutes and then let your slow-cooker do the rest? Try Ross Dobson’s chicken, date and olive tagine. The four-hour cooking time guarantees that heavily-spiced tomato base has plenty of time to develop in flavour, leaving you with the ultimate winter warmer with no hassle whatsoever.
Finally, Katherine Westwood and Sophie Gilliatt’s vegetable tagine with olives, aubergine and chickpeas makes roasted vegetables the star of the show for a go-to meat-free Monday meal. Plus, the leftovers are great for a quick WFH lunch. If you have any left that is…
Chorizo tagine with lentils and fenugreek
Ghillie says: “This is very simple yet delicious peasant food. Prepared with locally-cured, spicy Moroccan merguez sausages or chorizo and lentils or beans, it is a satisfying dish, best served with flatbreads and a generous dollop of creamy yogurt.”
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 450g chorizo or merguez sausage, thickly sliced
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp ground fenugreek
- 225g brown lentils
- 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tsp sugar
- leaves from a bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped (reserve some
- to garnish)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- warmed flatbreads and natural yogurt, to serve
Heat the oil in a tagine or a heavy-based casserole.
Add the onions and garlic and sauté until they begin to colour. Toss in the chorizo slices and sauté for one to two minutes just to flavour the oil. Stir in the turmeric and fenugreek and add the lentils, making sure they are well coated with the spices.
Add the tomatoes with the sugar and pour in enough water to cover the lentils by 2.5 cm. Bring the liquid to the boil, reduce the heat, put on the lid and cook gently for about 25 minutes, adding more water if necessary, until the lentils are tender but not mushy.
Toss in the coriander and season to taste with salt and pepper. Scatter the rest of the coriander over the top and serve with warmed flatbreads and natural yogurt.
From The Modern Tagine Cookbook by Ghillie Basan (Ryland Peters & Small, £9.99), out now
Seven-spice butternut tagine
Alice says: “Few dishes can boast being both moreish – in that you just cannot ever have enough – and Moorish, as in pertaining to north African cuisine. Tagine is one of them. You’ll end up with more spice mix than you need, but the leftovers will stay fragrant in a jar for up to two months, and are a fabulous addition to dishes like the pea pilaf on page 447. Although ‘tagine’ actually refers to the specialty dish the ingredients are cooked in, there’s no need to shell out for more kitchenware: any cast-iron or shallow flameproof casserole dish with a lid will do.”
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 80ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- bunch of parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped, stems finely sliced
- garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 50g sultanas or chopped dried apricots
- 2 tbsp dried barberries (optional)
- 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 x 400g tins whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses, plus extra to serve
- 2 red peppers, cut into wedges
- a good pinch of salt flakes
- 80g walnuts, lightly crushed
- mint leaves, to garnish
- lemon zest, to garnish
- flatbreads or couscous, to serve
For the seven-spice mix (makes 1/2 cup):
- 2 tbsp ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp ground cloves
- 2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
Combine all the seven-spice ingredients in an airtight jar, giving it a shake to evenly distribute the spices.
Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Using a sharp knife, chop your pumpkin in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds, then cut into quarters. Coarsely grate 150g of the squash and set aside, then chop the rest into 3cm cubes.
Heat 60ml of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole or cast-iron dish over medium heat. Add the onion and parsley stems. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for eight to 10 minutes, or until the onion has softened and become translucent. Sprinkle in one tablespoon of the spice mix, scrape in the grated pumpkin, garlic, sultanas and barberries, if using.
Cook for two minutes, or until glossy and incorporated.
Stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, pomegranate molasses, and an extra 400ml tin full of water. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, then transfer to the oven and cook for one hour, or until the sauce has thickened.
Meanwhile, toss the diced pumpkin in a bowl with the capsicum and remaining olive oil, then spread across the baking tray. Scatter with salt flakes and roast for 25 minutes, or until the pumpkin is cooked through and slightly golden.
Fold the roasted pumpkin and capsicum through the tagine. Scatter with the walnuts, chopped parsley leaves, mint leaves and lemon zest. Drizzle with extra olive oil and pomegranate molasses, then serve immediately with flatbreads or couscous.
Instead of roasting the pumpkin and capsicum from scratch, use left-over roast veggies.
Heat the leftovers in an ovenproof dish, crack an egg or two in, and serve with toasted left- over flatbreads. Or, scoop any left-over couscous on top and reheat in the oven for a tagine ‘gratin’.
From In Praise of Veg by Alice Zaslavsky (Murdoch Books, £30), out now
Chermoula, tomato and fish tagine
Jennifer says: “The aromas of cinnamon and other spices permeate the streets in Morocco, from the market stalls to the footpaths. Tagines are made streetside in individual clay pots that bubble away for hours, making dreamy smells for passersby. Essaouira, a windy seaside town, is where I encountered this light stew. After eating a lot of lamb in Marrakesh it made a refreshing change.”
- 800g firm white fish fillets such as tilapia, swordfish, halibut or barramundi cod
- 150g small new potatoes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 3cm piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
- ½ small piece preserved lemon, pith discarded, skin rinsed and chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 200ml fish or vegetable stock
- Steamed couscous, lemon wedges and chopped coriander leaves, to serve
For the chermoula:
- large handful of coriander leaves and stalks
- 2 tsp ground hot paprika
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- juice of 2 lemons
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
To make the chermoula, process all the ingredients with a pinch of salt in a blender until smooth.
Cut the fish into large chunks and put it in a non-metallic dish, pour on half the chermoula and stand for 30–60 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.
To make the tagine base, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium–high heat. Add the onion and ginger, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for 10 minutes or until soft. Add the remaining chermoula, preserved lemon, tomato paste, cherry tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the fish and cooked potatoes to the saucepan containing the tagine base and cook for five minutes or until the fish is just cooked through. Serve the tagine, sprinkled with extra coriander, steamed couscous and lemon wedges.
Make the chermoula and the base for the tagine earlier in the day, cover and refrigerate.
From My Street Food Kitchen by Jennifer Joyce (Murdoch Books, £20), out now
Chicken, date and olive tagine
Ross says: “The sweet, aromatic flavours of this tagine typify Moroccan cooking, as does the use of dates or other dried fruit. Ground ginger is a great spice to have on hand. Lacking the fiery heat of fresh ginger, its gentle warmth and earthiness successfully straddle both sweet and savoury cooking.”
- 400g can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 12 medjool dates
- 8 chicken tenderloins
- 85g large green olives
- handful chopped coriander
- handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
- couscous, to serve
Heat your slow cooker to High.
Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika and cinnamon in the bowl of the slow cooker. Season generously with salt and pepper, then give everything a good stir. Cover and cook for two hours to let the flavours develop.
Stir through the dates, then cover and cook for one hour.
Working quickly to avoid losing too much heat, add the chicken to the slow cooker, nudging it into the sauce so it is completely covered. Cover and cook for one hour, until the chicken is white and cooked through.
Stir in the olives and herbs, then serve with couscous.
From The Healthy Slow Cooker by Ross Dobson (Murdoch Books, £16.98), out now
Vegetable tagine with olives, eggplant and chickpeas
Katherine and Sophie say: “This delicious and slightly unusual vegetable tagine uses roasted rather than steamed vegetables, combined in a lightly spiced tomato-based sauce. There are whole green chillies poached in the sauce (which can be avoided or not, as you see fit) and nuggets of pitted black olives, which give a nice salty counterpoint to the sweet roasted vegetables. This could go well on the side of a meatier dish like the Middle Eastern Lamb with Prunes, Mint and Pistachios (see page 195) or makes a well-rounded vegetarian dish with couscous and a dollop of garlicky yoghurt.”
- 400g pumpkin or sweet potato (peeled weight), diced into 3cm cubes
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 small aubergine, approximately 350g, cut into 4cm chunks
- 1 courgette, cut into 3cm chunks
- 1 large brown onion, chopped
- 1 red pepper, seeded and cut into thick strips
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 x 3cm piece ginger, grated
- 3 tsp ground coriander, toasted
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin, toasted
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp mild paprika
- 1 heaped tsp caraway seeds, toasted and ground
- 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 4 long green chillies
- 2 tbsp honey
- 400g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 50g Kalamata olives, pitted
- Couscous (see below)
- 1 handful parsley, mint or coriander leaves, chopped
- Garlic Yoghurt Sauce (see below)
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Toss the pumpkin in 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the eggplant and zucchini in one tablespoon of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and spread over the two trays. Don’t overcrowd your trays – the vegetables will stew instead of roast if they are on top of each other.
Roast in the oven for around 35 minutes for the pumpkin, and 25 minutes for the eggplant and zucchini till everything is caramelised and cooked through.
Meanwhile, slowly cook the onion, red capsicum, garlic and ginger in the remaining one tablespoon of oil and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large saucepan over low heat for 10–15 minutes. When soft and translucent, add the spices and the tomatoes. Add the whole chillies (in one piece, stalk and all), then 400ml of water. Simmer for 30 minutes, then add the honey. Add the roast vegetables, chickpeas and olives to the spiced broth. Stir together gently, adding more water if it is too thick. Taste for seasoning.
Serve with couscous, chopped herbs and garlic yoghurt sauce.
Garlic Yoghurt Sauce
A dollop of garlic yoghurt sauce is a quick way to liven up kebabs, tagines and koftas – and takes about five seconds to make. Combine 260g Greek-style yoghurt with one to two crushed garlic cloves, a good pinch of salt and one tablespoon lemon juice. Beat together, taste for balance and adjust. Easy, hey?
To lift your couscous up a notch, use stock instead of water (following the instructions on the packet). After it has cooked, fluff it up with a fork, then stir through any combination of chopped fresh herbs, toasted almonds and pistachios, diced preserved lemon, pomegranate seeds, thinly sliced spring onions and currants or barberries. Maybe not all at once, though you could
give it a whirl.
The whole recipe can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days or in the freezer for up to three months. Defrost before reheating gently – the pumpkin or sweet potato will be delicate.
From Cook Now, Eat Later by Katherine Westwood and Sophie Gilliatt (Murdoch Books, £16.98), out now
Photography: © Ryland Peters & Small; Ben Dearnley; Jean Cazals; Jeremy Simons; Ben Dearnley