After 40 years cooking for a family, Glenis recently adopted a flexitarian approach, adding more plant-based meals into the weekly diet.
What is a Tagine?
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.
Traditional tagine pots are an attractive serving dish and talking point but they 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 written 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 on my hob in a deep sauté pan, 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.
- 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).
How to Prepare a Butternut Squash
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.
- Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion gently for a couple of minutes to soften it.
- Add the chopped garlic and continue to fry for another 2 minutes.
- Add the spices and stir until they start to release their fragrance.
- Add the butternut squash, making sure each piece is coated in the spices.
- Add the tomatoes and the stock, followed by the bay leaf, the chopped preserved lemon, the honey and the apricots.
- Stir well, bring to the boil and then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the butternut squash is soft but still in chunks. Approximately 30 minutes.
- Taste and add salt and pepper to taste, if required (I found that none was needed).
Pre-chopped Butternut Squash For Cooks Who Are Short of Time
More Ideas for Using Preserved Lemons
- Less is more when using preserved lemons - they are very salty and the flavor is intense.
- Remove the flesh before using - only the peel is needed.
- Some people recommend rinsing preserved lemons to reduce the saltiness but I don't do that - just add less salt to the dish.
- Half a preserved lemon chopped and added to mashed potatoes adds a dash of sophistication. Good served with fish.
- Add finely chopped preserved lemon to couscous or rice
- Add to salad dressing
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.
- 250 g couscous
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander and flat leaf parsley
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- Hot water
- Place sufficient couscous for four servings in a large bowl.
- Cover the couscous with hot water.
- Chop the herbs and the spring onion. I did this in seconds in the bowl attachment for my Kenwood stick blender.
- When all of the water has been absorbed, fluff the couscous with a fork.
- Add the herbs, spring onion, and the lemon zest.
- 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.
© 2019 Glen Rix
Glen Rix (author) from UK on July 08, 2020:
Butternut squash soup with grated nutmeg stirred in is also a winner as far as I’m concerned.
Sp Greaney from Ireland on July 07, 2020:
I love butternut squash but it hard trying to find recipe that I would like. This looks delicious. Thanks for sharing.
Glen Rix (author) from UK on February 12, 2020:
I think my family is now flexitarian. We rarely eat red meat, because of the methane produced by cows, (as well as being bad for the arteries!) and eat beans and pulses as the main component of our evening meal on 3 occasions each week.
Liz Westwood from UK on February 11, 2020:
My daughter is a vegetarian so I will make a note of this recipe for her next visit. It looks very tasty and I appreciate the detailed instructions.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 11, 2020:
My husband and I both enjoy eating butternut squash, and your recipe sounds delicious. Pinning this to my vegetables board so that I can easily find it and make this dish sometime soon. Thanks for posting it.
Glen Rix (author) from UK on February 18, 2019:
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. .
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 18, 2019:
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.