Vegetable tajine, the way we like it

This might not be a particularly traditional recipe for tajine, but frankly, the changes are for the better. Rich and tasty, sweet and comforting, this new discovery is sure to become one of our staples.

Source improved and simplified version of a recipe from Vegetarisch Kochen Difficulty trivial Time 45 min Serves 2

Vegetable tajine, here with quinoa instead of the usual couscous.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 1 red hot chili pepper
  • 1–2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 large or 2 small zucchini (organic if possible)
  • 3–4 medium carrots
  • 1 handful sultanas or Californian blue raisins
  • 1 organic lemon
  • 1–2 dl boiling water
  • vegetable stock for 1 l of liquid (typically 2 cubes)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • (optional: a pinch of saffron)
  • 250 g couscous (or rice or quinoa) on the side

See this post for advice on vegetable stock and this one on cumin.

We did use saffron in our preparation, but it didn’t have a prominent effect on the final taste, so you can skip it if you like.

If you can’t get organic zucchini, it’s probably better to peel them rather than just washing them, though they’ll be less tasty that way. Do get an organic lemon, since we’ll be using the zest.

Preparation

Wash the raisins by leaving them to soak in a bowl of cold water until you need them. Peel the onion and wash the chili, chop both into small pieces, and toss them into the pan you’ll be cooking in. Peel the squash and carrots, wash the zucchini, and cut them into medium-sized pieces. Watch out with the squash, it’s pretty hard. Use a big knife and keep your fingers safe.

Wash the organic lemon and grate off its zest, taking care not to bring too much of the bitter white pith along. Don’t throw away the lemon!

Add the olive oil to the pan with the onions and chili, and fire up the heat. Sauté them for a few minutes, then add the squash, carrots, and zucchini and keep going for a few more minutes until all the vegetables have had some quality time with the hot olive oil.

Now pour in some hot water (about half a cup) to stop the sauté, and lower the heat for gentle sustained cooking. Crumble in the vegetable stock and add the cinnamon, cumin seeds, saffron, lemon zest, and drained raisins. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into the pan, and give it all a good stir. Cover the pan and leave it to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, prepare the side dish. Couscous is the classical choice, but rice should work too. We used quinoa today, with was a bit exotic, but not bad. In any case, just follow the instructions on the packaging.

When both the vegetables and couscous are done, serve them together and enjoy!

Variations

As mentioned before, this is not quite the traditional way of making tajine. The kind I get in restaurants is often either very bland, or worse, soaked with what must be smelly mutton broth. The original recipe we based our cooking on did not use any onion and did not ask for any sautéing. Come to think of it, I can see how that would turn out bland. Don’t worry, our recipe is nothing like that.  ;o)

As for using quinoa instead of couscous, that was mostly because we’ve always wanted to try out quinoa at some point. It’s quite different from couscous or rice; very nutty. I ended up liking it, but Simone was not convinced. Your mileage may vary.

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