Root Vegetable and Bean Tagine with Saffron Couscous

Possibly the greatest tasting dish I have ever eaten was a broad bean tagine several years ago at the fantastic and very popular Al Fassia in Windsor. I asked the waitress how the chef had made it, but her description was a little vague. Having had several failed attempts at making something similar I now think I have cracked it with this – a root vegetable and bean tagine based loosely on Leith’s tagine recipe but with a few changes and additions. Whatever you do do not leave out the preserved lemon. It is this that transforms the dish from a fairly bland root vegetable and bean stew into a completely different eating experience.

What you end up with is a sweetness from the root vegetables but a slight acidity from the lemon, ending with a tingling from the spiciness of the chilis – I left the seeds in to give it a little extra kick. The vegetables and beans are beautifully soft and, like many dishes, this one tastes even better the day after.

The problem is getting across the taste in a photo – particularly when the dish is somewhat brown in colour

For the tagine (feeds about six)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion – finely chopped
3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
2 green chilis – finely chopped
1 carrot – peeled and diced
3 medium sized turnips – peeled and diced
3 medium sized turnips – peeled and diced
4 tomatoes – chopped
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
500 ml vegetable stock
400g borlotti, cannellini, broad or butter beans (I used borlottis I’d grown on the allotment and frozen, but tinned is just fine
2 courgettes – cut into half round chunks
1 preserved lemon – finely chopped
good bunch of chopped fresh coriander
salt and black pepper

Take a large casserole or a tagine if you have one. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat then add the onion. Fry gently for 7-10 minutes until soft. While the onion is softening, turn the oven on to 180C. now add the chili, garlic and ground cumin to the onion. Fry for a minute or so then add the carrots, turnips, potatoes, tomatoes and beans (drained if using tinned).

Add the coriander and stock, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to boil. Remove from heat, place the lid on pop it in the oven for an hour.

After an hour, take the tagine out of the oven, add the courgettes and preserved lemon, replace the lid and pop back in the oven for a further 20 -30 minutes until everything is tender.

The couscous is really quick. Take a couple of good handfuls of couscous and place in a smallish saucepan. Add a few strands of saffron and a good pinch of salt. Cover with boiling water from the kettle, put the lid on and leave for about 4-5 minutes until the water has gone and the couscous is soft. Give it a good stir.

Serve with a little extra chopped fresh coriander and perhaps a blob or two of natural yogurt.


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