This is a delicious, simple vegan supper – sort of a curry, sort of a tagine, even part ratatouille… You can serve it with any pulse or grain of your choice, but, given that it’s fairly dry and intensely flavoured I think it’s best with a moist accompaniment – a cauliflower & white bean puree is absolutely fantastic, and I will write a recipe for this in due course – but wet polenta or sweet potato mash would also be great. Serve with any greens you like, I went with spinach, simply wilted in olive oil and spiked with lemon. Broccoli would have been a close second.
The recipe requires a few ‘store-cupboard’ ingredients which might sound a lot if you’re needing to buy all at once. If you have some to hand, the recipe is quick, simple and makes use of inexpensive summer vegetables as its feature ingredients.
This tagine/curry – call it what you will! – is a great one for topping fiends such as myself! Toasted and chopped almonds, and sliced spring onions are a must; pomegranate seeds, torn mint or coriander, olive oil, Greek yogurt, and toasted sesame seeds, are all brilliant too.
The flavours here will mature and develop over time, so it’s great made ahead, or scaled-up and enjoyed throughout the week. Throw a tin of drained chickpeas through any leftovers, along with a handful of rocket, and you’ve got a lunch box salad for work the next day!
This recipe makes 4 hearty portions.
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 small brown onions, or 1 medium
1 stalk of celery
1 clove of garlic
thumb-sized hunk of fresh ginger
2 medium aubergines
salt & pepper
2 teaspoons tamarind paste
20 cherry tomatoes/ 4 salad tomatoes/ or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
1 teaspoon harissa/ some chopped fresh chilli/ or a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 preserved lemon/ or the zest of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
toasted and chopped almonds/ or homemade dukka
mint/ or coriander
In a dry frying pan toast the cumin and fennel seeds, after a minute add the curry powder and continue dry-toasting for another 2 minutes, shaking the pan often. Allow the spices to cool, and then coarsely grind in a pestle and mortar.
Chop the onions. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large casserole dish. When the oil is hot add the onions.
Slice the celery, crushed the garlic, and peel and grate the ginger. Add these to the sautéing onions. A medium heat is perfect here, no need to be overly cautious and keep it low, as a little catching and caramelizing will add great depth of flavour.
Allow this to cook for approximately 12-14 minutes before adding the aubergine.
Dice the aubergine, and add this to saucepan, as well as 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, some salt and pepper, the tamarind paste, the ground spices, and the harissa.
Stir everything well, and again, keep the heat moderate.
After a further 10 minutes add the cherry tomatoes, keeping them whole is fine, just crush them with your wooden spoon! Alternatively, chop the salad tomatoes (perhaps peeling if you’re not a fan of tomato skins in stews*) and add these, or tip in a tin of chopped tomatoes. If you’re using tinned tomatoes your end product will be saucier – great if you’re serving with rice or quinoa! Add the honey or sugar here to balance the natural acidity, and add a little splash of water.
Now that all the ingredients are in, lower the heat and allow this to cook slowly for 20 minutes, or a little longer if you’re not in a rush. Keep the lid half on, half off.
Meanwhile, quarter a preserved lemon and discard the internal flesh. Finely dice the skin and add this to the aubergine and tomatoes.
Serve in warmed bowls with any of the suggested accompaniments; I will post a recipe and method for cauliflower and white bean puree in due course! Don’t forget to go crazy with toppings.
* To easily peel large tomatoes, score an ‘X’ across the base of each tomato, just enough to pierce the skin. Place in a mixing bowl and pour oven boiling water strait from the kettle. Leave the tomatoes in the hot water for 30 seconds or so; you will see the skin start to recoil around the ‘X’. Drain, and then very easily peel away the skin