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There are a couple of reasons why this fragrant tagine from ‘for the love of food’ is recipe of the month. The main one is because I’ve had two emails over the winter from intrepid reader/cooks of the book, pointing out that there is no instruction as to when the vegetables are added to the main body of the stew. Being smart cooks, both correspondents figured it out easily enough. Still, it needs fixing, so here is a corrected version of the recipe for you to cut out and paste into your copy of ‘for the love…’.
One other change to the recipe is the way the courgette is cooked before being added to the tagine. I’ve suggested here that it be flash-fried to give it a bit of colour while remaining crunchy, allowing it to finish cooking in the stew itself. The general idea of combining the three vegetables in this way is to have two of them slow-stewed meltingly into the tagine while the third – okra in this instance – brings a crisp, lightly cooked freshness to the finished dish.
Why squash, courgette and okra, though?, says ‘perplexed of Tooting Bec’. Indeed…good question from the back of the class there. The only true answer is simply that that is how it came out on the day I made it and wrote it down. It’s a peculiar aspect of recipe-writing, especially when it involves a dish you make variations on frequently, using whatever happens to be around the kitchen. And depending on who is eating it – children or chilli fiends? Then one day you set it in stone by putting it down on paper. Next day you go back to making random versions, change the spices and the vegetables, alter how long it stays in the oven, and whether the orange zest is finely grated and left in or done in large slices of peel that are removed at the end. That’s why the best recipe books are useful guides rather than instructions for scientific procedures.
I wrote a version of this for the Paradiso kitchen recently, titled “thingy, chickpea and whatsit tagine”. And maybe that’s how it should have been published too, though I’m not sure it would have got past the editor, who might have wanted to know how and for how long the whatsit was cooked, if indeed it was to be cooked at all.
When you pull the recipe apart, though, this is what it is: a chickpea stew in a Moroccan-flavoured tomato sauce, with two or three vegetables added, each cooked in its own appropriate way. I’m making it for dinner tonight, with some roasted cauliflower and carrots and some lightly sauteed green pepper stirred in at the end. I’ll be serving it with a dollop of yoghurt on top, harissa on the side and a warm naan bread. Or lemony couscous and a sprinkling of feta? Hmm…
400g butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
200g courgettes, halved lengthways and thickly sliced
1 large red onion, halved and thickly sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
6 green cardamom pods, seeds only, lightly crushed
1×400g tin chopped tomatoes, including juice
200mls vegetable stock
zest of 2 oranges, finely grated
10 dried apricots, thickly sliced
2 tablespoons dried cherries
1×400g tin cooked chickpeas
120g fresh okra, whole
2 green chillies, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons each chopped fresh parsley and coriander
Preheat an oven to 420f.
In an oven dish, toss the squash in a little olive oil and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, until almost tender and beginning to caramelise.
Reduce the oven temperature to 320f.
In a wide pan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over high heat. fry the courgette slices for 2-3 minutes, tossing often, until lightly browned but still firm.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy oven proof pan, and saute the onion for five minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and spices and cook for two minutes more. Add the tomatoes, stock, orange zest, dried fruit and chickpeas, and bring to a boil.
Stir in the roast squash and courgettes. Cover the pan and place it in the oven to simmer for 40-50 minutes.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the okra and chillies, and fry for two minutes, until the okra is tender but still firm and lightly coloured.
Remove the pan from the oven and stir in the okra and chopped herbs. Serve the tagine with some lemon juice squeezed over each portion.