The refreshing, aromatic flavours of Moroccan food are perfect for summer entertaining, and typical Moroccan dishes lend themselves to mezze-style dining. A bit of this, a bit of that, help yourself and tuck in! So, optimistic that the sun would come out last weekend, I planned to make a tagine. Had I been catering for a party I would have added to the menu baba ganoush, jewelled couscous and falafels at least, maybe some tabbouleh and kofte too. I love seeing a table full of dishes, different foods beautifully tied together with complementing flavours. I would also have made my tagine a day ahead and re-heated it, as the flavours develop over time – dishes like tagines and stews always taste better the next day.
As it was, I was cooking for one on a Saturday night, so just stuck with lamb tagine, flatbreads and hummus. (scroll down for recipes!)
I have made a tagine once before, and it was a disaster. I used our lovely terracotta tagine, which was a wedding present, and promptly ruined it – which I will feel eternally guilty about! The dish cracked, the lamb burnt on to the base, there was no flavour – needless to say, I was traumatised.
I’ve done some research and it turns out that before you use a tagine you need to SEASON IT! No recipe I have ever seen has mentioned this, so I’m definitely making a point of it to keep others from ruining their lovely tagines. Tagines can crack if you use them at too high a heat, or if there is a sudden change of temperature. You can repair them using milk if the inside of the tagine is unglazed, but mine appears to be glazed and I didn’t have time to try it before making this dish.
So I ended up making my tagine in my casserole dish, which works perfectly fine but doesn’t have the same wow factor as presenting the dish in an actual tagine. But as I was cooking for myself, the wow factor would have lost some of its spark anyway. So no sweat.
For my tagine I used a recipe from Pippa Kendrick’s book The Intolerant Gourmet. The recipe doesn’t appear to be on her website, but I would definitely recommend the book. Thankfully I am not intolerant to anything, but this book is very handy to have around in case you are cooking for any friends with intolerances. Some of Pippa’s recipes are really magical. Just the first recipe on her website today is for gluten free, dairy free, egg free, sugar free, vegan, raw fudge. I mean…?! There aren’t any ingredients left after those, surely?? And for a lot of Pippa’s recipes you don’t need to go searching high and low in health food shops. There are tonnes of recipes that just happen to not have any intolerable ingredients, as well as recipes that use substitutes – gluten free flour and so on.
Anyway! I made Pippa’s Lamb Tagine with Dates and Peppers, halved the recipe and only used 300g lamb, as that is what I had. And I didn’t use coriander as it’s gross. I am getting used to this cooking lark! It makes such a change from baking, where you have to have the correct ratios of ingredients and can’t as easily go chucking extra things in or missing ingredients out.
The tagine was mouth watering. Once it is almost cooked, the smells from the kitchen dissipate through the whole house and it is so comforting. Turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and mint combine into a fresh aroma that tells you this dish is good for body and soul. When you tuck in, the lamb melts in the mouth. The sticky, syrupy dates are a cushiony contrast to the rich, crunchy pine nuts and the peppers make the dish pop visually.
While my tagine was bubbling away, I got to work making my hummus. I love to make hummus and don’t think I will ever buy it again! It is cheap, easy and you can make loads and freeze it in portions. I bought a large tub of tahini on a whim and have had it open in the fridge for months. I can’t read the labels as they’re all either totally faded or in arabic, some both, but it seems fine and the hummus tasted great.
My hummus recipe is the perfect base for you to build upon yourself – it is simple and mildly flavoured, which makes it ideal for you to adapt to complement its accompaniments. My recipe below calls for cumin, but I could have swapped this for any of the spices in the tagine. Add more olive oil or a flavoured oil instead of vegetable oil, and play around with the volume of lemon juice. Hummus is also divine when made with boiled chickpeas and served warm.
You will need:
1/4 cup tahini
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tbsp light olive oil or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1 fat clove garlic, minced
400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Generous pinch salt
1. In a food processor, beat the tahini and lemon juice for a couple of minutes.
2. Add in the oils, spice and garlic and beat for a further minute.
3. Add half the chickpeas to the bowl and process until the hummus is smooth, 3 minutes. Add in the second half and process until the hummus is as smooth as you like – it’s sometimes nice to have a chunkier dip!
4. Once the chickpeas are suitably blended, add a drop of water to the hummus and blend to thin. Continue adding water and blending, a drop at a time, until the hummus has reached the desired consistency.
5. Add salt to taste and blend for a final time. Serve drizzled with olive oil and scattered with pine nuts.
And finally, the flatbreads. These are lightening quick to make and really yummy. The edges were short and slightly crumbly in the mouth, and the inside soft and doughy. They contain the perfect amount of salt and I recommend charring them a bit – delicious!
Makes 2-4 flatbreads
You will need:
100g self-raising flour
1tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the flour and pour in the olive oil. Stir the ingredients together to combine.
2. Add the water 1tbsp at a time until the dough binds together. You may find you don’t need all the water – I used 4tbsp for my flatbreads.
3. Once the ingredients have bound into a dough, turn the dough out onto your surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth and soft.
4. Split the dough into two or four and roll out into flat circles around 5mm thick. At this point you can roll in some chopped herbs, if you like. Rolling the dough between two pieces of cling film eliminates the need for a floured surface and makes turning the dough easier.
5. Fry the circles individually in a dry pan. Fry for around 4 minutes on each side, or until charred to your satisfaction. Serve warm.
And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this article and that you give my recipes a go – let me know what you think below!