Chermoula is the star of the show; there are many variations of this marinade, but the key ingredient tends to be coriander. I often throw in parsley and mint too. The great thing about stews, particularly exotic ones, is that you do not have to be prescriptive about the amounts of ingredients you use. The quantities I’ve suggested for the chermoula here make a generous amount. I use it all in the tagine but its also nice stirred through rice or cous cous.
If I have time, I roast my butternut squash first, for about an hour. Apart from intensifying and almost caramelising that buttery, velvety sweetness, it also makes peeling this rather cumbersome vegetable a doddle. Finally, I recommend buying a jar of preserved lemons – they are widely available in most supermarkets – to garnish/stir through your tagine at the end. It’s the skin that’s important which sounds a bit strange – but they add a nice salty, lemony touch to any Middle Eastern dish – and keep in the fridge for ages.
Ingredients (6 servings)
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds/powder
Big bunch of coriander (around 100g)
Mint (optional but recommended)
Zest and juice of 1-2 lemons
Chillies (I use 3 large ones)
Garlic (I use 3 cloves)
A small onion (optional – but this helps to add moisture to the paste when blending)
Oil for frying (I use 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil)
3 large onions
1 large butternut squash
1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes
400g chickpeas (one can or use 200g dried beans, soaked overnight and boiled until soft)
2 teaspoons of Vegetable Bouillon Powder (I use Marigold)
½ a cinnamon stick
Coriander to garnish (optional but recommended)
Pickled lemons to garnish (optional but recommended)
Preheat the oven to 180(fan)/200 (conventional) if roasting the butternut squash first
- If you are roasting your butternut squash first, slice it vertically in half and roast for about an hour. When cool enough to handle, remove the seeds, peel off the skin and slice into cubes.
- Start the tagine by making the chermoula paste. If you are using cumin seeds, dry fry them in a hot pan for about 30 seconds.
- Tip into a blender with all the other chermoula ingredients and sufficient water (start with say 50 ml, adding more if necessary) to bring everything together into a paste. This takes a few minutes.
- Now for the tagine. Dice the onions and fry until translucent. Add the peppers (and cubes of butternut squash if you did not roast it first), then dollop in most of the chermoula, reserving a tablespoon or so, and let the vegetables gently cook in the paste for about 10 minutes.
- Add the tin of tomatoes, bashing the fruit with your wooden spoon to break up the skins, followed by the chick peas. Give everything a good stir and allow it to lightly simmer. Dissolve your vegetable stock in a litre of hot water before tipping into the stew, along with the cinnamon stick (which works like a bayleaf). If you are using a traditional tagine pot, be careful not to over-fill the shallow base, so add your water as and when it needs it.
- Allow the tagine to gently cook for at least 40 minutes – I leave mine for about an hour – the slower the better. If you roasted your butternut squash first, let it have at least 20 minutes additional cooking in the tagine.
- When you feel your tagine has had enough cooking, fish out the cinnamon stick, stir in the rest of the chermoula and check for seasoning. Pour in the juice of the two lemons. If you are using pickled lemons, slice each one in half and discard the lemony pulp and any seeds. Finely dice the skin and stir through the tagine along with the coriander.