Do you need another make ahead, vegetarian/vegan friendly/ Paleo friendly/ meal in your arsenal for when those folks drop in that isn’t a curry or bowl of pumpkin and coconut soup? If so, skip straight to the recipe at the bottom. This aromatic, slovenly easy vegetarian tagine is possibly what you’re looking for.
Again, if you have time for nattering, read on.
There are things that I do when The Hungry One goes away (short trip this time within Australia, but still absent for the lion’s share of the week).
I make a batch of microwave quinoa and buy a large bunch of Tuscan kale. I eat swift renditions of bowl-food, cross legged at the coffee table, usually comprising of the quinoa, a few other vegetables, a herb and a small portion of protein.
I cheat in the mornings and let Will come into the ‘big bed’ with the ipad, so he can watch Peppa Pig until we’re ready to face the day.
I listen to a lot of podcasts, drink a lot of tea, possibly too much red wine and embark on nostalgic, indulgent baking projects (see this week’s efforts in a dairy-free/ Will’s friend-friendly honey joys) – which incidentally are stupendous with a few squares of dark chocolate after dinner.
I binge watch things I’ve seen before (hello Season 2 of West Wing), or movies with sharks or dinosaurs in them, then curse myself when I’m visited by frenzied dreams about being chased through a flooding, deserted shopping mall by a deathly creature with razor sharp teeth.
I make a lot of lists. I meet a lot of people for coffee. I occasionally get caught by an organisational zeal and empty out half my wardrobe, discard one or two things, then forget to put it all back until just before The Hungry One is due home.
I eat a lot of dark chocolate covered almonds while blankly flicking through social media, in a lounge room lit only by the looming hue of the television.
I wear a lot of active-wear.
And every now and again when I feel like I should make more of an effort to take care of myself, beyond wearing clothes that suggest I’ve been exercising, I buy a bunch of vegetables and make a big batch of something sincere and well meaning, that will feed me for the rest of the time I’m flying solo.
This tagine is just it. It’s eminently flexible- use whatever combination of vegetables you have on hand. Parsnips, eggplant, red pepper, butternut squash and swede would all be noble substitutions. The softly spiced and sweetened onions are a fairly important base note, though if someone at your table can’t handle them, then some slivered fennel sweated down would also work. The chai tea came as a lark – I had a glut of chai tea bags in the pantry and thought that it’s elegant sweetness from vanilla and cardamom would add some background interest. I was right. However, Earl Grey or Lady Grey (or even lemon and ginger) would also work. The key here is to dice all of your vegetables to around the same size and simmer it together gently so the vegetables drink up the flavour of the tea/stock. Seasoning well at the end is also something to pay close attention to- some dried apricots are sweeter than others, so be sure to balance the flavours with salt and a little chilli if you think it calls for it.
You can bulk it out further with some chickpeas and it goes a treat with some quinoa, wilted kale, flaked almonds and coriander. I also like it with some greek yoghurt and harissa, but that may be overkill to you.
(And while this is a perfectly sustaining vegetarian option, I can assure you it’s also delightful when served along side some slow cooked lamb shoulder when you’re once again feeding a large hoard).
Vegan/Paleo Chai Tagine
1/2 tbsp mixed spice/pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp ground ginger and 1 tsp cinnamon)
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into thin half moons
2 carrots, cut into medium dice
2 courgettes, diced
1/4 cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 large sweet potato (or 2 medium, or 3 small)
1 chai tea bag
375 ml/ 1 1/2 cups boiling water
10 dried apricots, snippped into quarters (can substitute for dried cranberries for FODMAP friendly)
(Optional) 1 x 400 g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Cooked quinoa or cauliflower cous cous (around 400 grams)
4 tbsp yogurt (optional- though not paleo or vegan)
Pickled or fresh chilli, sliced
Harissa or chilli sauce
1) Place the Dutch oven over a medium heat. Add the spices and toast for a minute until they are nutty and fragrant. Add the olive oil and the sliced onions and sauté over a medium heat for 7 minutes until soft.
2) Meanwhile steep the tea bag in the boiling water until you have a robust brew.
3) When the onions are pliant and sweet add the apricots and diced vegetables.
4) Discard the tea bag and add the tea to the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot to help rescue any that is clinging to the bottom. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook with the lid half off for an hour until the vegetables are cooked through, stirring occasionally.
5) Before serving check the seasoning. It may need salt to help balance the sweetness. You can also fold in a tin of drained chickpeas if your guests can eat pulses and you want to stretch the meal further.
6) Serve either cooked quinoa folded or over cauliflower cous cous. Top with fresh herbs, flaked almonds and pickled or fresh chilli for bite. /P