A tagine is a conical earthenware pot used for slow cooking. Tagine is also the North African stew prepared in the tagine pot. Historically, the nomads in North Africa used these pots as portable ovens, allowing them to prepare food at anytime while moving around.
A traditional tagine stew contains bits of meat (lamb or chicken) and vegetables. Spices, nuts, and dried fruits are also used. Common spices include ginger, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and saffron.
My vegetarian version is made with onions, carrots, zucchini, potato, chickpeas, cabbage, eggplant, and a wonderful bend of spices. It is wonderful when served over nutty-tasting couscous. If you don’t have time to make couscous, serve it with a fresh loaf of French bread. Either way, you’ll enjoy this slow-cooked vegan flavor flash.
1 tablespoon Ginger (peeled and chopped)
¼ teaspoon saffron
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons fresh mint (chopped – divided)
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley (chopped – divided)
1 tablespoon tomato purée
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon (no beef base)
2 carrots (cut into 1-inch pieces)
1 large russet potato (peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces)
14-ounce can chickpeas
8 pearl onions (peeled)
2 medium zucchini (cut into 1-inch pieces)
5 small eggplants (cut into 1-inch pieces)
½ cabbage (cut into 8 wedges)
10 ounces uncooked couscous
Harissa (as a condiment)
Place the onions in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 3 minutes. Remove, peel, and set aside.
Place the ginger in a large pan with the saffron, cumin, coriander, 1½ tablespoons of the mint and 1½ tablespoons of the parsley, the tomato purée, vegetable broth, and bouillon. Bring to a boil. Add the carrots, potato, and chickpeas. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the onions, zucchini, eggplant, and cabbage. Stir, cover, and cook for 30 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
While the tagine simmers, cook couscous according to package directions. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.
Spoon the couscous onto serving plates and top with the tagine. Garnish with the remaining mint and parsley leaves. Serve with harissa in a condiment bowl at the table.
* Harissa is commonly found in a jar at your favorite grocery store or you can make your own with this recipe:
10 to 12 dried red Arbol chile peppers (chopped)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped )
¼ cup fresh mint (chopped)
½ cup fresh cilantro
½ teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Place the chilies in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
While chilies are rehydrating, toast all three seeds in a dry pan (no oil) for about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and grind to a powder using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. Place the drained chilies in a food processor along with toasted seeds. Add the garlic, mint, cilantro, and salt to the food processor and pulse-blend for a couple of minutes.
Change the blender speed to medium and with the blender running, drizzle enough of the olive oil into the blender to make a stiff paste. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.