A tagine is just a fancy name for a stew, slowly cooked in a conical vessel. I make this in a terracotta tagine for dinner parties but it tastes equally as good cooked in a pot on the stove. This combination of vegetables works well but feel free to improvise. Likewise there are suggestions below if you’d like to add meat or fish. I enjoy making my own harissa but you can buy it pre-made if you prefer to skip this step.
Harissa (spice paste)
6 medium hot red chilies (if you don’t like the heat or are cooking for children use one or two chilies and a whole red capsicum)
6 plump cloves of garlic
2 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 sea salt
1 – 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Toast the seeds in a pan, swirling all the time so they don’t burn. When golden brown, remove immediately from the pan and grind them with a mortar and pestle.
Roughly chop the garlic and quarter the chilies (and capsicum if using). Whiz together with a tablespoon of oil in a small food processor. Add the toasted, ground spices and blend. If necessary, add an extra tablespoon of oil to form a loose paste.
2 large leeks, peeled and chopped (or a medium red onion cut into wedges)
I large sweet potato peeled and cubed (or pumpkin)
1 large fennel bulb, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced (or a bunch of baby carrots)
2 Japanese eggplants, sliced
4 tomatoes, chopped (or blend in the food processor to clean out the last of the spice paste) (or 1 can of tomatoes)
1 can chickpeas (rinsed well and drained)
Water/vegetable stock (if required)
Prepare the harissa and roughly chop the vegetables. Largish chunks are ok because this is dish tastes best with long slow cooking.
If you’re using a tagine, first follow the instructions for soaking and drying the vessel, and allow an extra hour or two of cooking. Simply mix the harissa and vegetables together, then tumble into the base of your tagine, top with the lid and put into a cold oven. Set the oven for 125C and check after two hours. Cook until the vegetables are tender (this may take 2.5 – 3.5 hours depending on how thickly you’ve cut them).
Stove top method
Add the harissa paste to a hot, heavy-based pot or Dutch oven and fry off the spices. If using a pre-made paste, use the quantity recommended on the jar or tube. Stir frequently and after a couple of minutes add all remaining ingredients (except water/stock). Combine well and turn the heat to low. Use a heat mat if you have one. Check and stir occasionally. The tomatoes should provide enough juice is cooking on low heat but if your stovetop runs a little hot you may need to add water or vegetable stock. Cook for 1 – 2 hours until the vegetables are tender.
Drizzle with tahini if desired and serve with couscous or rice.
Swap the chickpeas for 200 grams per person of your favourite protein.
Red meat/chicken (chunks cut on the bone are best for slow cooking): If using a tagine, brown the meat in a pan first then add to the raw vegetables. For the stovetop method, after frying off the harissa paste, add the meat and brown well before adding the vegetables.
Fish: use chunks of firm white fish (e.g. Blue Eye) and add to the pot or tagine when vegetables are three-quarters cooked.
This recipe is gluten-free (served with rice), dairy-free and can be vegan.
This recipe was originally published in the May 2015 newsletter. For an original article, inspiring recipe and more in your inbox each month, add your address to the free newsletter sign-up.