Vegetable Tagine!

By Neil Muir (NEILMUIR1) on January 21, 2011

A Tagine is a heavy clay pot originally Moroccan, but other types are available all over from north Africa, They are simple in design with a base and a cone shaped top, that allows the moisture to be kept in whilst slow cooking. Although they are old in there design, nowadays western manufacturers have produced many modern variations. Some with cast iron bases, non stick and even electric ones! However the one I am using here is my own traditional glazed clay one, which does not need non stick and can cook most things. A totally original and traditional one is unglazed. A similar thing called a Tavvas is used in Cyprus.

Tagines come in many sizes, colours and quality. Not only are they a very practical and indeed versatile way to cook, they are also very decorative and look fantastic when a meal is served on the table with one. Or just as beautiful in any kitchen. They are relatively inexpensive as well, and if looked after will give years of service. However BEWARE for there are some cheap ones out there on the internet for sale. They will crack if even shown any heat, and most important follow the maufacturers instructions. For if you intend to use an original one on the stove top (gas), you may need a diffuser. These consist of a metal ring that is placed on your stove and spreads the heat evenly instead of at one point, which will crack some Tagines. There are many out there for sale that are Dishwasher safe and are safe to use on the stove top without anything at all, look for one of them if you intend to use it a lot as I do. In the oven they are great as the heat is spread so there is usually nothing to worry about at all. There are two sorts of Tagine, cooking and serving. However one like mine does both. Totally original ones are unglazed. They are available from places like this on the internet. For the USA try this place Click Here. For the UK Click Here. My tagine is pictured below.

YOU DO NOT NEED A TAGINE TO COOK THIS RECIPE.

You can cook most recipes without a Tagine in a large pan with a lid or a casserole\pot roast dish.

Please click on any any picture to enlarge it.

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Now let us start on what seems a lot of work, but it is quite easy if you have the ingredients and follow the basics. Let me first state there are no rules in this sort of basic cooking: it is honest, rural cooking. Although I am using some Moroccan spices etc, I am using mostly western vegetables. So should you, use whatever you can get hold of that is the only thing I can suggest! On the left photo is the start of some of the things I use, you may only need a teaspoon full of some of them and others more so don't panic. I am using; lemons, fresh ginger, garlic, chili, coriander, parsley, Harissa paste, paprika (smoked), honey, tinned plum tomato's. Then in the right photo the vegetables and these are all optional as are the spices & herbs. So I am using; carrots, baby aubergines (egg plant), different coloured bell peppers, onions, new potatoes, and semi dried Apricots. Although you can use cherries or have no fruit at all, plus you can use sweet potatoes or whatever you want!

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It looks like an awful lot, which it is for my tagine, so I make two loads and one I freeze for future use. If you have a large pan or casserole dish you can make one lot all at once. Lets get started by cutting an onion up! Heat your Tagine\pan\pot on the stove with two tablespoons of olive oil and add the onions for five minutes until brown. I have already cut the potatoes up and the carrots, there is one pound of new potatoes, but I use half a pound a time. Then I have made a vegetable stock of about 8 fl oz with some thyme added (optional). Remember this is a rustic dish and the vegetables need to be cut up roughly, not like a chefs way of doing it. The carrots should be about an inch long and then cut through the middle. Just don't fuss with it! Pictured are the cut up vegetables and then the potatoes, carrots and stock added.

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Add one can of plum tomatos or fresh ones (quartered), if you have them. Put the lid back on whatever you are using and simmer for 15 minutes.

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Now you can use a food processor to make this or like I do a pestle and mortar. You will need; 3-4 cloves of chopped garlic, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, grated fresh ginger, sea salt that stops the garlic sliding everywhere, lemon juice of half a lemon, plus the zest of a whole lemon, chopped coriander and parsley, ground black pepper and 1 teaspoon of Harissa paste. Harisa is a mixture of spices and can be quite hot. I use Harissa paste from one place, as it is always the same so I know what I am doing with it! You can make your own Click Here. Or in the USA you can get the paste from someone like this Click Here. If you do not want to use Harissa just use chilles. Grind down well and add to the dish, with extra coriander if required!

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Chop up some baby or normal aubergines (egg plants), or anything you can find and add to the dish! Cut them thickly or they will disappear in the oven cooking.

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These are soft natural dried Apricots, and are totally delicious. They are  also very sweet so you do not need many unless you like it sweet! You can of course use figs, dates and a popular one is cherries. Or you can leave the fruit out if you so wish. Taste the sauce in your dish first for if it is spicy enough leave the chillies out. With the Harissa I use, I always add one chopped green chili as that gives it extra flavour. Chop up your bell peppers and the chili if you need it and add to the dish.

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Now add one tablespoon of clear Honey to your wonderful creation. Although this is optional it does add to the flavour. Put the lid on your vegetable dish and place in a preheated oven at 375 F for 35-40 minutes. A lot of people swear by using preserved lemons as shown in this picture instead of fresh ones. Admittedly the preserved ones are  sourer, but I have never noticed the difference in the finished dish. But I always keep a jar in the cupboard in case I cannot get fresh lemons.

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Put on some Rice to cook and serve with the dish, although traditonally couscous is used. After 40 minutes check your dish it should be done. The Aromatic smell will bowl you over.

This is what you get in the end after a bit of coriander and flat leaved parsley is sprinkled on it!

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The taste is incredible, Hot, Sweet and Sour with the smell and taste of the smoky paprika! But you can still taste the vegetables and the herbs. Unless you put too much Harissa or chilli in it, then you won't. It keeps well after cooking, it freezes well and the Aroma, oh the Aroma is something so heavenly you will never forget it. Plus it is so healthy as no goodness can escape from the cooking method.

Why do I love it so much, I can only say try it yourself and you will find out why!

Regards.

Neil.

For Nancy and as promised Sharon.

 


Related articles:
aubergines, bell peppers, carrots, Chili, egg plants, garlic, ginger, Harissa, Harissa paste, Honey, lemons, potatoes, Preserved lemons, soft dried apricots, Tagine, Tagines, tomato's tinned and fresh, Vegetable Tagine

About Neil Muir
I started as a seven year Apprentice for a Parks Department on the London\Kent borders. Going to college one day a week and working in the varied Victorian parks, gardens and nurseries five days a week.
After this I worked for many large estates and became Head Gardener in different locations. However with the growing use of pesticides and herbicides I went back to University, primarily to study Conservation and Ecology, but relevant to the now growing organic movement in the UK. After 28 years in Horticulture due to an accident I was informed I could no longer do the physical work involved and was retired. I love supporting the Great British Gardens we have in our small island, and cooking the traditional food of this Country. My hobbies are listening to bagpipe music, steam trains and model making, plus of course gardening.






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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Sounds Delicious! Petalpants Jan 25, 2011 12:16 PM 1
Looks Great and colorful. Happy_1 Jan 24, 2011 9:54 AM 3
Great As usual Ridesredmule Jan 23, 2011 6:39 AM 18
Lovely... Sharon Jan 22, 2011 6:28 PM 6
Yummy starlight1153 Jan 21, 2011 10:43 AM 2

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