Make this pungent Moroccan tagine with root vegetables on a weeknight and be instantly transported to the fragrant markets of the Maghreb.
This version is salty and rich in vegetable flavors. There’s not as much sweetness as you usually find in vegetable and chicken tagines with prunes, raisins and nuts, instead salted lemons and olives add a slight tanginess. A trio of starchy root vegetable: sweet potato, parsnip and turnip make the stew hearty and delicately absorb the flavors of spices like cumin and turmeric.
A tagine is a North African stew that also refers to the cone-shaped clay pot it is traditionally cooked in. Moroccan tagine pots are beautiful to look at and relatively inexpensive and easy to find, but you don’t need one to make this recipe, any heavy pot with a lid will do. The stew should cook for at least an hour and is even better when made ahead of time.
The true star of this dish is the flash-cured lemon. Don’t be afraid to eat the rind! By simply simmering lemon slices in salt water, the toughness is leached out and the rind becomes pleasantly chewy. The rinds are then finely chopped and added to the stew before it simmers to get that distinctly North African spicy lemon flavor.
Moroccan Tagine with Root Vegetables and Couscous with Pine Nuts
1 whole lemon, sliced into thin half moons
½ cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon dried coriander
4 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large carrots
1 medium sweet potato
2 medium turnips
2 medium parsnips
1 large yellow onion
1 cup pitted green olives, sliced
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley + more to serve
1 10 oz. box of plain instant cous cous
¼ cup pine nuts
First make the flash preserved lemons. Add the lemon slices to a small nonstick skillet with ½ cup water, 2 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the rinds become soft. Place the lemons and their juices in a bowl to cool, then finely chop.
Prepare your vegetables by peeling and chopping the carrots, parsnips, turnips, onions, sweet potato into ½ inch cubes.
Toast the spices in a large pot or Dutch oven: over medium-high heat, add 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 tablespoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper and 1 teaspoon coriander and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and crush with the back of a wooden spoon and add 1 teaspoon of salt.
In the same pot, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onions first for 4 minutes on their own. Then add the garlic, the spice blend, tomato paste and chopped lemons with their juices. Stir a few times to combine, then add all the chopped vegetables and the can of chickpeas. Add 6-8 cups of water so the vegetables are covered by at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to rolling boil. Add the couscous, stir, cover and remove from flame to sit for 10 minutes. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toast for 3 minutes until they just start to burn. Toss in the couscous and parsley.
Serve 1 cup of couscous in a shallow bowl and spoon the tagine on top with lots of liquid. Garnish with chopped parsley.
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Photos by: Ally-Jane