Two Tagines: one vegetarian, the other not.

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We’ve been enjoying some extremely hot weather, but I’m being eaten alive by mosquitos. I think that since the little bastards are tucking into tasty meals, courtesy of my legs, it’s important to address that balance and to ensure that I eat well too. A few nights ago I made two tagines. We ate them outside. They were so good. It felt very summery eating something with a North African feel during this gloriously hot weather.

This first one is a slightly bastardised version of a Jamie Oliver recipe from the ‘Jamie Does…’ book from 2010. (Incidentally, this was a great tv series and I think one of his best. I’ve found his latest programmes feel like long adverts and while he still knocks out inspiring recipes there’s something really lacking in the more recent output. But in the ‘Jamie Does…’ series he feels genuinely excited and enthused by his experiences and it makes for much more compelling viewing with the general atmosphere being one of inspiration rather than instruction. So there.)

Chicken Tagine
1 whole chicken (portioned up – I cut the breasts off as fillets, left the legs whole and threw in the wings. The carcass I kept back for something else)
1 large fennel bulb (coarsely chopped/sliced)
2 onions (coarsely chopped)
1 bunch coriander (stalks chopped, leaves reserved)
4 cloves garlic (sliced)
3 preserved lemons (chopped)
a handful each of green and black olives
1 pint of stock

For The Rub
1 big spoonful coriander seeds (crushed and bashed)
1 spoonful cumin seeds (bashed and ground)
1 spoonful ground ginger
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

The rub (all those ingredients mixed together) was smeared and massaged into the chicken which should have been left overnight, but we were in a bit of a hurry so it only got 20 minutes, if that. The chicken was then fried, skin side down, in hot olive oil until crispy, and then removed from the pan. Next the onions and fennel went in and were fried around on a lower heat before adding the garlic, coriander stalks and lemon, then the chicken pieces (crispy skin up now) and the olives, and then the stock. The whole thing was brought to a simmer before the lid went on for about 2 hours over a very low heat. Finally, sprinkle with fresh chopped coriander at the end.

Once cooked I pulled the meat from the legs and wings and folded that into the stew. The breasts, as they were filleted before cooking were carefully sliced and place on top. Which looked very nice.

We had it with flatbreads (homemade of course) and coarse bulgar wheat, just seasoned with salt pepper and parsley (and I think bulgar wheat is much nicer than cous cous)

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The second tagine was vegetarian and was so deep in sweet rich flavour. Very different from the chicken one they worked excellently together. Again it’s a bastardised version of a Jamie Oliver Beef tagine.

Tagine of Squash, Chickpeas and Prunes
2 onions (coarsely chopped)
1 spoonful ground cumin
1 spoonful ground cinnamon
1 spoonful ground ginger
1 spoonful paprika
half a spoonful fennel seeds
1 large pinch mace
half a large butternut squash (peeled and chopped into big chunks)
1 bunch coriander (leaves reserves, stalks chopped)
1 tin chickpeas (drained)
1 tin tomatoes
about 8 small new potatoes
one and a half pints stock
a small handful of prunes (stoned and roughly chopped)
1 drizzle Pumpkin Seed Oil (if you have it, worth getting if you don’t)

In plenty of olive oil fry off the onion for a few minutes before adding all the spices. Fry for a little longer before adding the coriander stalks, squash, chickpeas, prunes and tomatoes. Cook for a little longer and then add the stock. Bring it to a simmer and put a lid on for a couple of hours. When it’s nearly done, drizzle with the pumpkin seed oil. It’s dark green and looks amazing, as well as enhancing the squash flavours. Finally sprinkle with fresh coriander.

For both these tagines I took the lids off and let them reduce for about 10-15 minutes at the end to thicken the consistency.

A couple of days later we had leftovers of both which I stuffed into fill pastry ‘cigars’ and fried until crispy. These, with some yoghurt and mint, were out of this world.
(George)

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