I don’t have a Tagine which is unbelievable since the restaurant we owned here was decorated in a Moroccan style and I went to Tangiers with my dad to buy the lights, lanterns, fabrics and ashtrays. That was a long day, we left the house at about 5.30 am to drive down the coast to Algeciras to catch the ferry to Tangiers. When we finally arrived at the port of Tangier and disembarked we were surrounded by about 30 guides all offering their services. They wouldn’t take no for an answer so we ended up being escorted through the souk to a shop owned by the guide’s cousin.
It really would be a shopper’s paradise if you were left alone to browse through the beautiful lanterns, slippers and fabrics, but no, out come the kelims, hundreds of them, hand-woven in silk by virgins in the mountains. They are beautiful but we were on a very tight budget given to us by the Washer Up and were under strict instructions not to deviate and we didn’t need any rugs!! My dad doesn’t “do” budgets and can’t resist beautiful things so I had my work cut out. We also had the shop owner plying us with mint tea and pastries, which gave me a huge sugar rush, I had to take control so I told them all to leave us alone or we wouldn’t by anything… It worked!
We ended up buying everything we needed in budget and surprisingly didn’t miss the last boat home. Probably because it sat in the port not moving for 2 hours while we were waiting for it to leave! This meant that we didn’t get home until 1am the next day. A successful trip but not one to be repeated in a hurry.
The ashtrays we bought for the tables were mini decorated tagines which were really popular and were always being stolen or people wanted to buy them. I think this probably explains why I don’t own a Tagine, I spent nearly 10 years emptying & cleaning them so I would be quite happy never to see one ever again….
This recipe is very flexible you can use whatever vegetables & beans you have in the house. The red beans could be replaced with chickpeas, the squash replaced with sweet potato, the possibilities are endless…
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 leek washed & sliced
- 1 kilo squash or pumpkin, peeled & cut into 2cm chunks
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 stalks celery sliced (reserve some leaves for garnish)
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tbsp tomate frito (tomato puree not paste)
- 7 or 8 dates, stoned & chopped
- 200 gr cooked red beans(about 1/2 a jar/tin) drained and rinsed
- 100 gr barley
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp harissa paste (or any chilli paste or cayenne pepper)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 /4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp Ras-al Hanout (a Moroccan spice mix) optional
- 1 tsp sumac (a crushed dried berry which has a smokey lemony flavour) optional
- 750 ml veg stock
- salt & black pepper
- the juice of 1 mandarin
- toasted almonds chopped
- a handful of mint, coriander & parsley chopped and the reserved celery leaves
- some feta crumbled or greek yoghurt
Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Cook the onion, celery, leek & carrots with a pinch of salt for about 10 minutes until softened. Then add the garlic cook for another minute and start adding the spices. You can moisten the pan with some lemon juice if its drying out. Add the chopped tomatoes & tomato puree, cook for 2 a minute then add the squash cubes and dates. Stir the squash to coat it in the tomatoey spices then add the veg stock and season generously with salt & black pepper. Turn the heat up and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to medium low and cook with a lid on for about 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes add the barley, stir to combine, replace the lid and cook for a further 10 – 12 minutes. By this time the squash and the barley should be cooked, if not give it a bit longer. Stir in the mandarin juice and the beans and give it a couple of minutes more. Taste for seasoning.
This is one of the those dishes I will cook again and again it is so flavourful and comforting and the colours are beautiful as well.