Category: Tagines


Whole Cauli Tagine

January 22nd, 2013 — 2:38pm

Diet? January? Pah! I’m sorry but we need insulation during this snowy month and I’m all about blubbering up. Okay I’m actually going to join the gym as soon as I get paid. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks eating things like langos, an Italian feast and my own bodyweight in melted cheese at Forza Winter. Oh and after Forza Winter I ordered a pizza at 2am. And then finished it for breakfast. And then and then and then and theeeeen. So you see I need to cut down on the cheese intake and up it on the veg side of things, which is how this cauli tagine came about.

The cauli is one of my favourite vegetables, and the once poor, unloved brassica is now apparently back in favour. I’ve wanted to steam one whole for ages and it seemed perfect for the tagine; it would cook gently inside, picking up all the spiced aromas over and hour or so. It would also look pretty snazzy on zee table.

I streaked the top of the brain-like cauli with saffron steeped in water; a flavour I used to hate with a passion. I found it soapy and unpleasant. The most expensive spice in the world? Didn’t get it. Well, I did; it’s very laborious to harvest of course but still. I’ve come to like it through cooking Iranian food and although I still wouldn’t count it among my favourite flavours, it sure does look purdy and I find it fragrant when used with appropriate modesty.

The cauli was cooked in a rich, thick sauce of onions, garlic, tomatoes and a few dried apricots, with a dried lime for a sour note; dried limes are amazing, when plucked from the bag they smell like lime sherbet. Spices went in, whole and ground; the onions taking on a beautiful amber hue from the turmeric.

It took rather longer to cook than I’d imagined, which has been my experience with the tagine thus far. I predicted an hour – it was more like one and a half. We ate it with a minty cous cous and a yoghurty drizzle effort which was basically yog mixed with diced pickled lemon and some garlic, briefly simmered to take the fiery edge off.

A seriously satisfying dish and, all importantly, insulating. I felt sufficiently sleepy, particularly when curled up with a glass of red and some Attenborough on the laptop. In bed by half past nine. Result.

Whole Cauli Tagine (serves 4, I’d say)

1 whole cauliflower
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 large onions, thickly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods (I like cardamom, a lot)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 scant teaspoon ground turmeric
1 dried red chilli
Pinch saffron (optional and like, totally not necessary)
1 dried lime
Handful dried apricots (preferably Persian)

Start by heating up the tagine slowly. Add some oil, then sling in the onions. Let them cook slowly for about 10 minutes. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, then crush in a pestle and mortar with the dried chilli. Add to the tagine with the other spices and the garlic. Continue cooking for a further 10 minutes or so. Add the tomatoes and dried lime, plus the apricots. Let the sauce cook down for 20-30 minutes until it’s starting to look all thick and gooey and lush. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Remove all the leaves from the cauliflower then trim down the base so it’s all nice and neat. Place the cauli on top of the sauce. If you want to use the saffron, steep it in a little boiling water for 5 minutes then steak across the top of the cauli. Put the lid on and cook on a gentle heat for about 1 hour to 1.5 hours, depending on the size of your cauli. When it’s tender, it’s cooked.

Serve with herby cous cous (I used mint and parsley) and yoghurt with chopped preserved lemons and garlic which has been simmered to take the edge off, then crushed.

26 comments » | African food, Tagines, Vegetables

Peckham Goat Tagine

January 2nd, 2013 — 2:54pm

Tagines have always been something I’ve viewed as having great potential to be really tasty, but I’ve never eaten a good one. What I imagined in my head to be a thick, rich, aromatic stew with complex flavours always arrived as a thin, watery bowlful bearing way too much dried fruit.

Because I am a spoiled and lucky girl, I received a magnificent tagine for chrimbo; a chance to turn things around and make the tadge I’ve always wanted, Pecknam stylee.

The tagine is heated on a little metal thing that looks like a ping pong bat with dimples in it, which helps to distribute the heat evenly across the base. It’s important that the tagine is heated slowly, otherwise it will crack and spoil all your fun before you’ve started.

The base was thickly covered with a bed of onions, the idea being that they would cook down, becoming silken and lush and absorbent of everything above. This being Peckham (bruv), the meat had to be goat, which is very easy to come by here. Its ballsy mutton like flavor is perfect (you could obviously substitute mutton if you can find goat) and it loves long cooking to become properly tender. For veg, some of those little white baby aubergines, which also need a good simmering into submission (they remain stubbornly bitter otherwise) and some small turnips, diced.

For the fruit, which for me is potentially the making but most commonly the breaking of a good tagine, I bought dried fruits from Persepolis, ending up with a kind of Moroccan/Persian hybrid recipe. There are many similarities between the cuisines. In went a dried lime, which the Iranians add mostly to stews where they bob about, gradually releasing a flavor which is like a lime essential oil, emerging at the end shriveled and spent. Apricots went in too, but not those horrible overly sweet and sulphurous supermarket ones but fragrant perfumed Persian fruits. A few scarlet barberries flecked the top, adding sourness, like tart cranberries.

For heat, I couldn’t help whacking a scotch bonnet in. I’m sorry. If I didn’t I’d be betraying Peckham. It was left whole though and just pierced, to contain heat but leach flavour. Having impulse bought a bag of African hot peppers, a couple of those went into a spice paste with loads of garlic, two types of paprika and a shed load of ras el hanout. It could have blown our heads off but didn’t; a bit on the hot side for a tagine, but with an enjoyable slow build.

After three hours of simmering and steaming what emerged was the tadge I’d always wanted; deep and complex, sweet then spicy then sour, lips were sticky from slow cooked onions and goat fat. A scattering of mint and spring onion freshened things up at the end.

This is, as you would imagine, even better the next day and again the day after that. I served it with flat bread and Sally Butcher’s Borani-ye Esfanaj (spinach with yoghurt – from Persia in Peckham), which is one of my favourite yoghurty arrangements of all time.

Peckham Goat Tagine (serves 6)

500g diced goat meat (or mutton)
4 small turnips, peeled and cut to the same size as the aubergines
6 small white aubergines, halved
3 onions, sliced
1 scotch bonnet chilli, left whole but pierced
250ml water
1 dried lime
5 dried apricots
1 scant tablespoon barberries
Mint leaves, finely sliced
1 spring onion, finely sliced

For the paste

5 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 African hot pepper dried chillies (optional)
2 tablespoons ras el hanout
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (smoky paps)
1 tablespoon water

Ideally I would have marinated the goat overnight in the paste then added it straight to the tagine without browning. I didn’t because I wasn’t organised enough so I’ve set out the method below as I cooked it.

Start by heating the tagine slowly. Add some olive oil, the onions and scotch bonnet chilli. Let the onions cook down gently while you brown the meat.

Cover a plate with flour and season it with salt and pepper. Dust each cube of the goat meat in it. Heat a frying pan and add some oil. Brown the meat on all sides. This will need to be done in several batches. Add this to the tagine, followed by all the other ingredients, including the paste. Season with salt and pepper and cook on a lowish heat for three hours, stirring every now and then after the first hour or so. After two hours, I’d advise you pick out the scotch bonnet chilli, because it’s only a matter of time before it bursts and you get a lot more heat than you bargained for.

Scatter over the mint and spring onion and serve with plenty of flat bread for dipping.

30 comments » | Food From The Rye, Fruit, Main Dishes, Meat, Peckham, Stews, Tagines

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