Forkful's easy suppers: Aubergine tagine
The tagine isn't so much a food dish as the dish it's served in. The name tagine comes from the earthenware pot in which meat and vegetables have been cooked in North Africa for hundreds of years. What results is a version of the stew, a dish which can be found in culinary cultures the world over.
The name tagine is now used in relation to North African-influenced stews, even if they're cooked in a frying pan, like our recipe this week.
I've used one of my favourite spice blends, Ras El Hanout, a North African staple that is a combination of spices including cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, coriander seeds, paprika and turmeric. It adds a fragrance rather than a heat to any stew it meets.
I've also used preserved lemons, which add a subtle sweetness to this dish. Preserved lemons are very simple to make at home. A quick Google search will help you find a good recipe but you'll also find preserved lemons in any decent food store.
As for the accompanying couscous, you may have a favoured brand and method.
I place about 100g of couscous in a large bowl and top it up with hot vegetable stock, so that it's covered completely by water, and then some.
I leave it sit, covered with a plate, for about 10 minutes, before fluffing it up with a fork. I then add a squeeze of lemon juice and a tablespoon of olive oil to loosen it all up.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 to 25 minutes
2 tablespoons of oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 tablespoon of Ras El Hanout
1 teaspoon of salt
Half a teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
1 preserved lemon
1 aurbergine, sliced into small cubes
1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
Couscous, cooked according to the packet's instructions
Seeds from half a pomegranate
Handful of fresh mint
1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion gently for 10 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further two minutes. Add the tablespoon of Ras El Hanout, the salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Mix well and fry for another minute.
2. Slice the preserved lemon and remove the flesh, setting the skin aside. Chop the flesh very finely and add to the frying pan. Add the aubergine and mix well with the spices before adding the tin of tomatoes. Fill the empty tin halfway with water and add to the pan, stirring everything well. Add the preserved lemon skins to the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the aubergine is tender.
3. Once the aubergine is cooked through, add the chickpeas and cook for another couple of minutes so the chickpeas are warmed through. Serve the aubergine with some cooked couscous, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and freshly chopped mint.
This week's storecupboard essential:
Tinned Tomatoes: It's a sad day in my kitchen when I realise I've run out of tinned tomatoes. At a pinch, you can create a pasta sauce or a quick sausage stew. I particularly like DeCecco's tinned cherry tomatoes for their sweetness.
Photo: Mark Duggan