When one dreams of Moroccan food flavours, cups of sugary mint tea that’ll make your teeth ache, and a spicy tagine accompanied with couscous usually come to mind. Since I’ve never visited Morocco to wander the souks buying and eating street food in the evening, I investigated which flavours were typical in Moroccan cuisine. Evidently vegetables, meats and spices are the base of Moroccan cuisine, with flavourings of preserved lemon, dried fruit and olive oil.
To make an authentic Moroccan Tagine with a vegan twist, I decided to include common vegetables, nutritious chickpeas and the classic Moroccan flavours of dried figs and preserved lemon. Served with a side of couscous, a squeeze of lemon and chopped mint leaves, elevates the meal to a perfect main for guests. I’m guessing that not everyone likes figs, like my husband who dislikes the seedy crunch, so dried apricots would be a perfect substitute. It usually take me 25 minutes to prep the tagine, preparing ingredients as the vegetables sauté, then a full hour to bubble and simmer to perfection on the stove.
Health benefits -
· Figs are high in natural sugars, minerals and soluble fibre. They’re rich in minerals and are a good source of antioxidant vitamins A, E and K that contribute to health and wellness.
MOROCCAN CHICKPEA TAGINE
2 brown onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cinnamon sticks (1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
4 cardamon pods, crushed (¼ teaspoon ground cardamom)
4 cloves (¼ teaspoon ground cloves)
2 eggplants (aubergines), diced
2 cups pumpkin, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
400 gram (14 oz.) tin plum tomatoes
2 x 400 gram (14 oz.) tins chickpeas
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup dried figs, chopped in strips w/o the core
½ preserved lemon, only skin, finely chopped
salt and black pepper
400 grams couscous
1 lemon, zest and juice
Place a heavy-based saucepan on medium heat and add a little oil. Add the onion, garlic, celery and spices and cook for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables soften. Add the eggplant and pumpkin and continue to cook for 10 another minutes to allow the spices to blend with the vegetables. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, vegetable stock, figs and preserved lemon. Season with salt and black pepper, and simmer for an hour with the lid on until the eggplant is cooked. Remove the cinnamon sticks.
Just before the chickpea tagine is finished cooking, cook the couscous, add the zest and a lemon quartered for squeezing juice. Serve the chickpea tagine next to the couscous, and top with a dollop of coconut yogurt and chopped mint.