My daughter rang over the weekend to ask if I had some vegetable tagine recipes and by the time I’d scanned a few and sent them by email, I’d decided to make one myself. I love making tagines: not only does it bring back wonderful memories of exciting and exotic Marrakesh (see Moroccan Meal post), but I love to fill the kitchen with the rich aromas of all those earthy spices. Tagines makes fabulous winter suppers with their rich, warming sauces but actually you can just as easily make lovely fragrant summer ones. ‘Tagine’ is really just a name that refers to the pot the dish is cooked in and I have a couple of summer favourites from Ghillie Basan’s book, Tagines & Couscous. Her book was the inspiration for this Aubergine & Tomato Tagine but I made a couple of changes, including adding some Ras El Hanout (easily available in supermarkets), a kind of Moroccan garam masala, and some maple syrup instead of sugar. I served it as she suggested with some couscous and a dollop of natural yogurt. It was delicious … and there’s even some left over for tomorrow.
Aubergine & Tomato Tagine
If you can buy 8 baby aubergines (which I couldn’t yesterday), that’s ideal and you can cook them whole, but otherwise buy 2 standard size ones and cut them into quarters lengthways, retaining the stalk at the end.
Slice 1 red onion with the grain and put it in either a tagine or heavy-based shallow casserole with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over a low-medium heat. Grind 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and 1 teaspoon coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle and add to the onion with 1 teaspoon Ras El Hanout, 1 crushed garlic clove and 1 chopped red chilli. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and allowing the onion to soften a bit and the spices to release their nice nutty aroma. Now add the aubergine and once it is nicely coated with the spices, add 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes.
Stir and then cover and leave to cook very gently for about 30-40 minutes – until the aubergines are soft. Check regularly and add some extra hot water if the mixture is drying out and to stop it sticking to the bottom. Once the aubergine is ready check the seasoning and add salt and freshly ground black pepper, 1 dessertspoon maple syrup and a heaped tablespoon of chopped fresh coriander and another of chopped fresh mint. Allow to cook for another 5 minutes.
I usually cook my tagine in a large, shallow Le Creuset pan but transfer to a tagine to serve. My method of cooking couscous is to put about a cup of couscous in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Add some salt and pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil and give a stir and then leave. Just before serving, transfer couscous to a steamer (I line my steaming rack with greaseproof paper) and this final steaming not only heats it at just the right time (the soaking can be done much earlier), but fluffs the grain up nicely. Transfer to a serving bowl and add a little more olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and some chopped parsley and mint.
As you can see, I served the tagine with the couscous and some natural yogurt, with a little more chopped coriander sprinkled over the top. But the yogurt is only optional and it’s still very good without. It’s such a delicious dish with deep, glorious flavours that I’m sure I’ll be cooking this again and again.