Vegetable Tagine with Chicken Meatballs and Cous Cous

This one’s for a friend in London, Kyleigh, who emailed me expressing interest in more one pot dishes.  In her flat she shares with her hubby, there’s an electric stove with no oven, and only two elements.  So this one’s for you Kyleigh!  Another friend, Sam, asked me on the weekend for cous cous tips.  While this dish has the cous cous incorporated in it, I’ve also included my method for making it separately at the end – just for you, Miss Sam.  If anyone’s got better ways to do cous cous, I’d love to hear from them!

This is a really lovely dish… fragrant, aromatic, healthy, hearty. But its also very practical, with the meatballs and cous cous all cooked together in the same pot.  I haven’t included a picture, as its not really the prettiest of dishes, but it makes up for it in convenience and yum factor.

Obviously, vegetarians can leave out the meatballs, the dish is still great without them, perhaps just add another type of vegie – like green beans.  I use homemade chermoula – a Moroccan paste that forms the basis of many tagines – but if you want to take a shortcut and buy some, then go right ahead.  If you make up the chermoula and the meatballs the day before, you’ll be amazed at how quickly this dish comes together.

For the chermoula… in a food processor, make a paste out of the following:

  • a bunch of flat leaf parsley (leave a little aside, for serving)
  • half a bunch of coriander
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 70 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of a lemon

Note: I leave chilli out of this because I make it kid-friendly, but it would normally have some chilli powder or flakes  as well.  (I get around this for myself by having a tube of Harissa paste in my fridge at all times, which I add to my serving).

For the meatballs:

  • 300 grams free range or organic chicken mince
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander
  • 1/3 teaspoon cummin powder
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 tablespoons flour

Mix all the ingredients until combined well.  Roll out little balls about 4cm in diamater. You don’t want them too big, they can take too long to steam in the stew and come out pink in the middle.  Toss them in the flour and set aside. (You can even freeze them at this point – in fact its a great idea to double this quantity and freeze a batch for next time).

For the tagine:

  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, diced
  • 1 tin chick peas
  • 1 tin organic diced tomatoes
  • 250 ml chicken or vegie stock
  • 6 dates, finely chopped (you can use prunes or apricots if you wish, but I find them a bit much; the dates lend a subtle fruity flavour and when chopped small they melt into the dish)
  • 1/3 cup cous cous
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • plain yoghurt

Heat the oil in a tagine if you have one (I do thanks to my sister Charlie, who gave me one for my 40th birthday!) or a heavy based casserole dish with a lid.   Toss in the sweet potato and the eggplant and cook over a medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.  The eggplant will absorb most of the oil, so keep a close eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn, and if its drying out add a few splashes of water.

Add the chermoula (you may not need to use it all), coat the vegies and cook for a minute or two.  Add the dates, cinnamon stick, chick peas, tomatoes and stock and stir through.  Allow it to come to a strong simmer, then reduce the heat and continue to simmer gently for 15 minutes.  If you haven’t made the meatballs in advance, do so now.

After at least 15 minutes of simmering (it doesn’t matter if it simmers a bit longer) shower the cous cous over the stew and stir it through.  Add the meatballs and gently coat them with the stew.  Put the lid on, reduce the heat to very low, and simmer for 20 minutes, checking at least twice as you go to turn the meatballs and ensure it isn’t burning.  You might need to add a little water toward the end.

Serve scattered with slivered almonds and chopped parsley, and some plain yoghurt.

Cous Cous

If you want to make the cous cous separately this is my quick and simple method:

Place half a cup of cous cous in a bowl.  Pour over 80 ml of boiling chicken or veg stock (the liquid should just cover the grains) and sit a plate on top for 10 minutes. Mix in a little butter (about half a teaspoon), and stir through some currants and toasted pine nuts, or whatever other accompaniments you favour.

This will make enough for 2 people.


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