Recipe: Carrot, Tomato and Chickpea Tagine with Saffron and Ras El Hanout

I was asked to organise a farewell lunch for one of my scientists at the local pub, which means organising pre-orders. They have a new menu this month, and one of the offerings caught my attention – heirloom carrot and tomato tagine with saffron and harissa, served with tabbouleh. Well, last week’s veggie box came with heirloom carrots and tomatoes, and my pantry contains saffron, harrissa, bulgur wheat, and many other handy things. I figured I might try my own take on this recipe.

I haven’t yet tried the pub version, but I’m very happy with mine. I added chickpeas to make it a more complete meal, and used coriander seeds and cumin seeds because carrots do love coriander and cumin, and the results were delicious and wholesome. Also, gloriously pretty, because my carrots were red and orange and yellow, and my tomatoes were yellow and red, and the whole effect was just lovely. I especially like the just-barely-cooked tomatoes – they kept their fresh taste, but had softened just a little into the stew. Delicious.

You could serve this with yoghurt or feta and I reckon it would be great. I forgot to do so, and it was pretty delicious as a vegan main meal. Really, I’m very pleased with this recipe.

Your shopping list

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • One brown onion, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp harissa powder or one chopped chilli
  • 1 tablespoon of roast garlic, or 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 5 medium-large carrots, ideally a mix of red, orange and yellow, peeled and sliced into batons or cut into quarters or sixths lengthways
  • 2 tsp ras el hanout spice mix
  • 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 tsp saffron (really a big pinch)
  • 2 cups water
  • a pinch of salt
  • 400 g fresh, small tomatoes, halved (I used a mix of heirloom cherry tomatoes and small heirloom tomatoes)

Now what will you do with it?

Heat the oil in a deep skillet and add the onion, harissa, garlic, cumin, coriander and sugar. Sauté until the onion is soft and beginning to change colour. (You can prepare the carrots while this is happening, that’s what I did.)

Add the carrots and ras el hanout, with a bit of water to deglaze if everything is sticking, and sauté for another couple of minutes.

Add the chickpeas, saffron, water (it should just cover everything – if your tagine is about to start swimming, stop adding water!) and salt. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to as low as you can, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the carrots are soft bit still have a bit of bite.

Add the tomatoes, stir gently, and cover again. Simmer for five minutes, until the tomatoes are just beginning to soften, and serve over rice or couscous.

Variations

This recipe is vegan, gluten-free and low-GI. Not great for Foddies, though. I’m not sure how to usefully vary it. If you didn’t have carrots, sweet potatoes or pumpkins would probably like these flavours too, at which point I might add a little ginger, too. You could make this into a lighter, side dish sort of meal by removing the chickpeas. You could also make this fancier by toasting almonds and sprinkling them over to serve, with some fresh mint and coriander.

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