Butternut Squash Tagine: A Fragrant, Spicy, Sweet and Sour Supper With a Flavour of the Middle East
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
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
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
- 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)
- 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).
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.
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.
© 2019 GlenR