Butternut Squash Tagine: A Fragrant, Spicy, Sweet and Sour Supper With a Flavour of the Middle East

Updated on February 28, 2019
Glenis Rix profile image

After 40 years cooking for a family, Glenis recently adopted a flexitarian approach, adding more plant-based meals into the weekly diet.

Traditional tagines in a pottery shop in Morocco
Traditional tagines in a pottery shop in Morocco | Source

The tagine’s conical shape makes a uniquely moist, hot cooking environment for the dish being cooked. The base is wide and shallow, and the tall lid fits snugly inside. As the food cooks, steam rises into the cone, condenses, and then trickles down the sides back into the dish.

— thekitchn.com
Source

Traditional tagine pots are not essential items for the production of a casserole dish suffused with the fruits and spices typical of North African and Middle Eastern cookery. Searching for a recipe for a butternut squash languishing in my larder, I came across several recipes for butternut squash tagine by celebrity chefs. Yotam Ottolenghi is an Israeli who runs seven immensely popular Mediterranean restaurants in London. I combined his recipe with the one offered by James Martin. The result, cooked in and on my hob, was a colourful and aromatic feast for the senses—soft chunks of vivid squash mingled with sweet apricots and intense bitter lemon, nestling in a rich red, fragrant and spicy sauce.

An Essential Ingredient of a Tagine: Preserved Lemons

These preserved lemons are miniature whole lemons. The flavour and the aroma are delightfully intense. Larger lemons would need to have the pith and flesh removed, but I simply cut these into quarters.
These preserved lemons are miniature whole lemons. The flavour and the aroma are delightfully intense. Larger lemons would need to have the pith and flesh removed, but I simply cut these into quarters. | Source
Butternut squash tagine simmering in the pan
Butternut squash tagine simmering in the pan | Source

Overview of Preparation

Start by gathering together and measuring out the ingredients. Then chop the vegetables and the garlic. Butternut squash can be time-consuming to peel and chop. Some cooks say that it's unnecessary to peel it, but for this recipe I invested some time. (If you are time poor and cash rich you could consider buying a ready peeled and chopped pack from the supermarket.)

Butternut squash is a good source of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, and manganese. A cup of cubed butternut squash also provides 582 mg of potassium, more than the amount available in a banana.

— medicalnewstoday.com

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground coriander (I had only the seeds, so I wrapped some in clingfilm and crushed them with a rolling pin)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric (I only had root turmeric, which I finely chopped. Be warned: It stains badly, and if you don't wear gloves to do this your fingers will end up looking like those of a heavy smoker.)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 200g / 7 oz chopped tinned tomatoes
  • 200ml / 7fl oz stock (I'm not a vegetarian so I used chicken stock)
  • Preserved lemons (I used 3 miniature ones, cut into quarters)
  • Small handful dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil (olive oil or rapeseed oil are best)

I chopped the onion super fast in a small bowl attachment to my Kenwood stick blender (a reasonably priced, compact and essential item in my kitchen for a variety of processes).

My stick blender
My stick blender | Source

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion gently for a couple of minutes to soften it.
  2. Add the chopped garlic and continue to fry for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add the spices and stir until they start to release their fragrance
  4. Add the butternut squash, making sure each piece is coated in the spices.
  5. Add the tomatoes and the stock, followed by the bay leaf, the chopped preserved lemon, the honey and the apricots.
  6. Stir well, bring to the boil and then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the butternut squash is soft but still in chunks. Approximately 30 minutes.
  7. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste, if required (I found that none was needed).

Stir well to coat all of the cubes of squash with spices
Stir well to coat all of the cubes of squash with spices | Source

Couscous Side Dish

Serve the tagine with easy-to-prepare couscous flavoured with herbs and lemon zest. You can prepare the cousous whilst the tagine is simmering.

Ingredients

  • 250 g couscous
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander and flat leaf parsley
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • Hot water

Method

  1. Place sufficient couscous for four servings in a large bowl.
  2. Cover the couscous with hot water.
  3. Chop the herbs and the spring onion. I did this in seconds in the bowl attachment for my Kenwood stick blender.
  4. When all of the water has been absorbed, fluff the couscous with a fork.
  5. Add the herbs, spring onion, and the lemon zest.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste, if required. I didn't find that it was necessary because the tagine that it will accompany has very robust flavourings.

Chopped coriander and flat leaf parsley
Chopped coriander and flat leaf parsley | Source

Chop and Freeze Leftover Herbs

Pots and packets of herbs from the supermarket don't stay fresh for very long. I find if I need to buy some for a recipe during the winter months, when there are none in the garden, there are always some left over. So instead of letting them wilt I chop them, and pop them in freezer bags. They will keep in the freezer for a couple of weeks.

Source

© 2019 GlenR

Comments

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  • Glenis Rix profile imageAUTHOR

    GlenR 

    8 days ago from UK

    Tastes really good. Loving preserved lemons!

  • lawrence01 profile image

    Lawrence Hebb 

    8 days ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

    Looks amazing.

  • jo miller profile image

    Jo Miller 

    3 weeks ago from Tennessee

    This looks lovely. I tend to shy away from butternut squash because they are so hard to peel, but this might make the effort worth it.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    4 weeks ago from UK

    Yes, the thought about price increases also occurred to me. I think vegetarian food tends to keep much longer than meat/chicken/fish-based dishes, which is a big advantage and cuts down on waste.

  • Glenis Rix profile imageAUTHOR

    GlenR 

    4 weeks ago from UK

    Hello Liz. Thanks for visiting. Yes, loads of variety - let’ hope the prices don’t increase too much when we are no longer Europeans! I made a very large tagine on Sunday and have been eating leftovers for lunch ever since - love it!

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    4 weeks ago from UK

    This looks like a healthy and tasty recipe. I sometimes find butternut squash a struggle to peel and chop, but I can't justify the added expense of the easier route, so I will just have to struggle on. When I think back to a few years ago (showing my age now) it's amazing how much more variety of foods we now have available to us.

  • Glenis Rix profile imageAUTHOR

    GlenR 

    4 weeks ago from UK

    Do try it, Dora. I love it and will be eating my second portion of leftovers today! Thanks for visiting.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    4 weeks ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for the recipe. Butternut squash is on my list of favorites. Now tagine is on my to-do list. Looks yummy so it must be.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Glen, Thank you for explaining a tagine's history. I apppreciate the information about the lemons also. Have a good week.

  • Glenis Rix profile imageAUTHOR

    GlenR 

    4 weeks ago from UK

    Hi Pamela

    A tagine is a North African stew, also made in the MIddle East. Traditionally a tagine is made in a pot that is also called a tagine - a casserole dish with a conical lid, often cooked over charcoal. But any vessel that cooks the stew very slowly will be ok - I used the hob. It's also lovely cooked with lamb. Do give it a try and thanks for visiting. If you can't find preserved lemons in the shops they are easy to pickle in salt at home - you just have to wait at least a month before they can be used. Thanks for visiting and commenting. .

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    I like butternut squash and this sounds like a spicy recipe that is probably delicious. A tangine is new to me and also the lemons. I will look for those in the store. I think this is a tasty recipe.

  • Glenis Rix profile imageAUTHOR

    GlenR 

    4 weeks ago from UK

    We ate it for dinner yesterday evening, Peggy. Delicious and nutritious. Preserved lemons are also good tucked into the cavity of a chicken before roasting. They are quite difficult to find in the small town where I live, so I will be salting some at home when the Amalfi lemons are in the shops ( providing they don’t become too expensive once we exit the EU!) Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

    This sounds like a very flavorful recipe. I have never made a tagine or used preserved lemons in my cooking. It is about time I tried to do so! Pinning your recipe to my vegetable board so that I can easily find it. Thanks for sharing!

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