Tagine for the want of a better word!

img_4412I am typing this with one hand as the other is wrapped around Small Girl who is poorly today and sad at missing her brother’s Christmas concert.  She was a very forlorn star in her concert yesterday and now has a tummy bug poor mite.  Anyway it got me thinking what a busy couple of weeks are ahead of us what with Christmas concerts, parties, theatre trips, sickly over excited children and carols on top of the usual work, school life balance.  It’s also the time of year when it can be really difficult to eat properly and really important that we do to get us through the craziness.

I thought I would share with you my recipe for squash and chickpea tagine.  I say tagine but I don’t make it in a tagine (those beautiful pots with a conical-shaped lid) as I don’t have one so I use an ordinary casserole pan and cook it on the hob. But if you are lucky enough to have one – use it and then you really can refer to it as a tagine!

It’s a great recipe as its quick to prepare and cook and all the ingredients will last for ages so its worth getting them in readiness.  It’s also one of those wonderful dishes that you can make in advance and it actually tastes better for it.   Serves four easily doubled or padded out with more veggies and chickpeas.


500g pumpkin; winter or butternut squash chopped into bitesize pieces

400g tin of chickpeas

large onion chopped

stick of celery chopped

a couple of carrots chopped into chunks

large handful of cherry tomatoes (or use chopped fresh or tinned)

6 or so apricots halved (I didn’t have any so used soft prunes raisins are good too)

Teaspoon of ground cumin

Piece of cinnamon stick or half a teaspoon of cinnamon

Teaspoon of ground coriander

half teaspoon of ras el hanout or ground spice if you have it – don’t buy it just for this!

tablespoon of honey

750 ml vegetable or chicken stock

a handful of green olives

one preserved lemon chopped


In a casserole or a tagine warm a good glug of olive oil, add the onion and celery and start to soften, add a pinch of salt and then the garlic and cook until the onions start to caramelise.  Lower the heat and add all the spices and stir until they release their wonderful evocative aroma.  Throw in the squash, carrots, tomatoes, chickpeas and mix together so everything is coated.   Add the stock which should come to the level of the vegetables.  Bring to a boil and simmer until the squash and carrots are tender – around 10 to 20 minutes depending on what type of squash you are using (or just under if you are making it in advance so it doesnt turn to mush).  Add the preserved lemon and the olives. Check for seasoning and adjust.  Wonder and salivate at the smell in your kitchen!

One thing I would say is if you use a cinnamon stick once it has infused the stew enough take it out as cinnamon can overpower.  As usual with my recipes – feel free to use different vegetables or leave out the carrots (small girl would never forgive me if I did that).  Heck – add chicken thighs or a lamb instead or as well as the squash if you want – its Christmas after all!!

I serve this with couscous or quinoa (or a mix of both), fresh coriander; toasted almonds or pistachios and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds like little jewels to finish it off.  All of which are not at all necessary but add to the decadence of this warming tastebud tingling stew.

For those of us with small people who are in the suspicious stage (when does this end?) I serve the component parts separately so they can add their own couscous, stew and toppings at various spots on their plates without anything touching (touching has sometimes caused a tantrum!)  I have even been known to provide a small bowl for the stew – God help us – but if it works and we get through a family meal without tantrums; tears and heartburn (and that’s just the adults) then all is good.

My favourite way to serve it is to spread the couscous on a large platter, top with the stew and then artistically sprinkle the toppings. Bring to the table and lay magestically in front of your guests.

So there you go chaps – its easy and yummy and will sit awaiting for you to come in from whichever event it is.  Yuletide Wishes xxx