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.
How to Cook Butternut Squash Tagine
Searching for a recipe for a butternut squash languishing in my larder, I came across several recipes for 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.
Traditional tagine pots are an attractive serving dish and talking point, but they are not essential items for the production of a dish suffused with the fruits and spices typical of North African and Middle Eastern cookery.
- 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
- 200 grams / 7 ounces chopped tinned tomatoes
- 200 ml / 7 fluid ounces 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)
How to Chop 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 a boil and then simmer, occasionally stirring, 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).
Tips for Using Preserved Lemons
- Less is more when using preserved lemons. They are very salty, and the flavour 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
I serve tagine with easy-to-prepare couscous flavoured with herbs and lemon zest. You can prepare the couscous whilst the tagine is simmering. Rice is an acceptable alternative.
- 250 grams 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