Nigella Lawson calls Alice Zaslavsky “a force of nature” and when it comes to understanding and preparing vegetables, that she is! The dynamic food writer and TV presenter has produced dazzling new cookbook, In Praise of Veg (Murdoch Books). It features 50 kinds of vegetables and over 150 delicious recipes – including this wonderful Seven-Spice Butternut Tagine.
Few dishes can boast being both moreish – in that you just cannot ever have enough – and Moorish, as in, pertaining to north African cuisine. Tagine is one of them. You’ll end up with more spice mix than you need, but the leftovers will stay fragrant in a jar for up to 2 months, and are a fabulous addition to dishes like the pea pilaf on page 447. Although ‘tagine’ actually refers to the specialty dish the ingredients are cooked in, there’s no need to shell out for more kitchenware: any cast-iron or shallow flameproof casserole dish with a lid will do.
1 medium butternut pumpkin (squash)
⅓cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 bunch of parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped, stems finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
¼ cup (50 g) sultanas or chopped dried apricots
2 tablespoons dried barberries (optional)
400 g (14 oz) tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 x 400 g (14 oz) tins whole peeled tomatoes
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, plus extra to serve
2 red capsicums (peppers), cut into wedges
good pinch of salt flakes
½ cup (80 g) walnuts, lightly crushed
mint leaves, to garnish
lemon zest, to garnish
flatbreads or couscous, to serve
Seven-spice (Makes ½ cup)
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Combine all the seven-spice ingredients in an airtight jar, giving it a shake to evenly distribute the spices.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Using a sharp knife, chop your pumpkin in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds, then cut into quarters. Coarsely grate 1 cup (150 g) of the pumpkin and set aside, then chop the rest into 3cm (1¼ inch) cubes.
Heat ¼ cup (60 ml) of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole or cast-iron dish over medium heat. Add the onion and parsley stems. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8–10 minutes, or until the onion has softened and become translucent. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the spice mix, scrape in the grated pumpkin, garlic, sultanas and barberries, if using.
Cook for 2 minutes, or until glossy and incorporated.
Stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, pomegranate molasses, and an extra 400 ml (14 fl oz) tin full of water.
Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, then transfer to the oven and cook for 1 hour, or until the sauce has thickened.
Meanwhile, toss the diced pumpkin in a bowl with the capsicum and remaining olive oil, then spread across the baking tray. Scatter with salt flakes and roast for 25 minutes, or until the pumpkin is cooked through and slightly golden.
Fold the roasted pumpkin and capsicum through the tagine. Scatter with the walnuts, chopped parsley leaves, mint leaves and lemon zest. Drizzle with extra olive oil and pomegranate molasses, then serve immediately with flatbreads or couscous.
Shortcut – Instead of roasting the pumpkin and capsicum from scratch, use left-over roast vegies.
Double duty – Heat the leftovers in an ovenproof dish, crack an egg or two in, and serve with toasted leftover flatbreads. Or, scoop any left-over couscous on top and reheat in the oven for a tagine ‘gratin’.
Images and text from In Praise of Veg by Alice Zaslavsky, photography by Ben Dearnley. Murdoch Books RRP $59.99