Butternut Squash Tagine

Is it me or the weather just cannot make up its mind lately? It’s been cold and yet and  then warm so now I’m back to sitting by the heater, a mug of hot tea in my hand and in between typing up this and staring out the window.

Ah well, at least it’s an excuse to have comfort food for a little bit longer. And in the line of comfort food, it is hard to beat a vegan tagine. Warm, not too spicy with a hint of sweetness in the dates. This dish is super simple to make and warms you right down to the bone. And for me, it hits the spot when I am craving something soothing yet healthy at the same time.

Also,like most stews, this one also gets better with age…so freeze any leftovers you don’t eat.

PS: If you make this butternut squash tagine, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram as @rbkfresh and use the #rbkfreshfitfood hashtag. I love seeing your takes on my recipes!

What You Need:

  • 2 tbsp / 30 ml olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes
  • pinch of saffron
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 x 400 g tin chopped tomatoes / 6 medium, ripe tomatoes
  • 1 preserved lemon, chopped very finely
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¾ tsp salt, adjust to taste
  • ½ butternut squash
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp chopped dates
  • 2 cups chopped kale, tough stems removed
  • 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cups cooked couscous
  • Toasted almond flakes, to serve

Let’s Get Cooking:

  1. Heat up the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot that you have a lid for.
  2. Throw in the diced onion and sweat it gently until almost translucent (for about 7 minutes), stirring from time to time.
  3. Add the chopped garlic. Keep on sweating (low and slow releases more flavour) gently until the onion is translucent and the garlic softens completely and releases its beautiful aroma (approx. 5 minutes).
  4. Stir all the ground spices into the onion-garlic mixture. Turn up the heat a little and fry them off for a minute or two (stirring the whole time as if they burn they’ll taste bitter).
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, 2 tins worth of water, saffron, cardamom pods, bay leaves, preserved lemon, raisins and salt to the pan. Simmer, covered, until the tomato chunks fall apart and the sauce looks more or less homogeneous (about 45 minutes).
  6. Remove the lid and keep on cooking the stew on low-medium heat to allow excess water to evaporate so that the stew thickens.
  7. You can cook the butternut squash in the stew (it takes about 20 minutes), but I prefer to do so separately as it allows for greater control over its ‘doneness’. Bake in a 200° C oven for about 25-30 minutes.
  8. Once the sauce thickens, taste it and season with a generous amount of black pepper, more salt if needed and add the dates (the dates will sweeten up the dish).
  9. Throw in the chopped kale for the final 10 minutes and cover the pot with a lid to allow the kale to cook in the sauce.
  10. Finally, stir in the cooked chickpeas and let them warm through. Serve over cooked couscous sprinkled with toasted almond flakes.
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