Cooking/ Meatless Monday/ Restaurants

Meatless Monday: Moroccan Chickpea Tagine from Cornucopia

Today we have a wonderful recipe from Cornucopia in Dublin, Ireland. Now that colder weather is upon us this Moroccan Chickpea Tagine is just the thing to warm you up and keep you satisfied! 

This is a classic North-African spiced casserole with slow-cooked vegetables and dried fruit, served up on a bed of aromatic bulgur wheat. Tagines are traditionally served with couscous, but in Cornucopia we often use bulgur wheat, as it is a whole grain and therefore contains more nutrition, as well as adding a nice nutty texture.

Chickpeas replace the traditional meat ingredient. From the moment you start cooking, the seven spices that go into this dish give off aromas so suggestive you may find yourself momentarily transported to a night market in Marrakech or to a sumptuously described scene from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

The word tagine refers to the special earthenware pot in which this dish is cooked, a wide-based, glazed pot with a tall conical lid, which ensures that the sauce does not lose too much moisture. The tagine is traditionally brought to the centre of the table with the lid removed, scattered with fresh herbs. As few of us have a traditional Moroccan earthenware pot at our disposal, a successful means of recreating this cooking method is to use a good-quality cast-iron pot with a heavy lid, which will allow you to cook the tagine really slowly, at a gentle simmer, without it drying out or sticking to the base of the pot.

This tagine is quite amenable to accommodating whatever fruit and vegetables you have in your kitchen. For example, try supplementing the dried apricots with prunes, dates or sultanas. Equally, try broccoli instead of courgette, butternut squash or baby potato instead of sweet potato, any color pepper you can find rather than sticking to red pepper — as long as the balance of spices is about right, the results will be similarly delicious. On the subject of spices, there is one ingredient in this recipe that may prove a little difficult to source, that is sumac — a tangy, slightly citrusy, red-colored spice.

If you can’t find it in your nearest Middle-Eastern or Asian food store, don’t despair; proceed without it, as both the dried apricots and orange zest in the bulgur bring tanginess to the dish too. The recipe for bulgur wheat to accompany the Moroccan tagine is remarkably tasty and definitely worth the extra effort. The zest of the orange marries wonderfully with the tang of the apricot in the casserole. And the toasted almonds add a pleasing crunch — an unexpected surprise.

Moroccan Chickpea Tagine with Orange-scented Bulgur

2x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
1 onion
1 carrot
2 courgettes
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 yellow pepper
150g green beans
25g (small bunch) fresh mint
8-10 dried apricots
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sumac (available in Middle Eastern food stores)
5 crushed cardamom pods
2 sticks cinnamon
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1x 400g tin of chickpeas (standard tin) — or 100g dry chickpeas soaked overnight & cooked
25g (small bunch) fresh parsley
Unrefined sunflower oil
Salt and pepper

For the bulgur:
400g (dry weight) bulgur wheat
400ml boiling water
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 2 oranges
100g flaked almonds
Salt and pepper 

If you are cooking bulgur wheat to accompany the tagine, preheat your oven to a medium temperature and toast the flaked almonds until golden brown. Turn off the oven and set the almonds aside.

Now prepare the vegetables. Place the tinned tomatoes in a bowl and blend until smooth with a stick blender. Dice the onion and chop the carrot quite small. Chop the courgette into half moons about ²1/2cm thick. Halve the green beans. Chop the sweet potato into medium-size chunks and the yellow pepper into medium squares. Quarter the dried apricots and chop the fresh mint finely. Keep all the vegetables separate.

Measure the seven spices into a bowl. To crush the cardamom pods, push down on them with the flat side of a chef’s knife, or roll over them with a rolling pin. Coat the bottom of a large saucepan generously with sunflower oil and place over a medium heat. Add the spices and cook for five minutes, stirring very frequently to ensure they don’t stick or burn. Next add the chopped onion and carrot and sauté for another five minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally add the chopped tomatoes and about 300ml of cold water and bring to a gentle boil. Turn down to a low heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes, until the carrots start to soften.

While the tomato mix is simmering, bring a small pot of salted water to the boil. Blanch both the green beans (2 minutes) and the courgettes (about 1-2 minutes), ensuring that both retain a pleasant bite, as they will cook further in the heat of the stew. Refresh in cold water immediately after blanching, drain and set aside. When the tomato mix has simmered for 15 minutes, add in the yellow pepper, sweet potato and chopped apricots. Leave the pot on a low heat, still lidded, for a further 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the bulgur wheat. Place it in a suitable container and add a pinch of salt and pepper and a tablespoon of olive oil. Stir to distribute evenly, and then pour 400ml of boiling water over it. Cover and set aside, fluffing with a fork occasionally. When the bulgur is soft (10-15 minutes), stir in the zest of two oranges and the toasted almonds. Check the seasoning.

When all the vegetables in the tagine are almost soft, add in the chickpeas (if using tinned, drain and rinse them first), the blanched courgettes and green beans and the chopped mint. Season to taste and return to a simmer. Serve the tagine on bulgur wheat or brown rice scattered with a little chopped parsley.

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