Vegetable Tagine with Falaffel and Cous-cous
An easy dinner that just "happens" once it is all put together. The ras el hanut spice is the key ingredient to make this dish an authentic Moroccan experience. I found some at Atlas spices in Cape Town, and added a few spices of my own!
You can add a vegetable stock cube if you want, but I like it without - the olive oil and spices pack all the flavour this dish will ever need.
If you have a tagine pot, that is great to use, but don't worry if you don't - any caserole dish will do.
No exact amounts are necessary.
For the Tagine
- A medley of moroccan vegetables: carrots, onion, butternut or any squash, brinjal, red or yellow peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, green beans etc. cut into large chunks
- Ras el Hanut spice mix
- Olive oil extra virgin
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
For the Falafel Balls
- 1 Can chick peas, drained and rinsed.
- 1 tbsp chick pea flour
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- Seasoning: ground cardamom, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper
- Oil for shallow frying
- 1 cup cous-cous
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Boiling water
- Veggie stock from the tagine
- Roasted seeds, (optional)
Mix all the vegetable up in a tagine pot or caserole dish. Sprinkle liberally with olive oil,salt and ras el hanut spice mix. Add balsamic vinegar.
Cover and bake at 180 degrees Celcius, until the vegetables are tender.
Remove the extra water but don't throw it away - keep it for the cous-cous.
Put the chick peas in a blender, and blend very briefly - it should be chopped, not a paste.
Add the other ingredients and mix well.
Roll small balls and shallow fry until they are golden brown.
Remove from the oil and place on kitchen paper.
Put the cous-cous in a large enough bowl and the veggie stock (make sure it is hot) in a cup. Fill the cup with a bit of extra water, if necessary - you need one cup of liquid.
Add the olive oil and salt to the stock, and pour over the cous-cous.
Let it stand for about 2 minutes, seperate with a fork and add seeds if you are using it.
Serve together with a dollop of yoghurt or tzatziki.
People are often negative about tofu. Funny enough, they are the people who have never tried it. Even funnier, is that I have never, not even once, cooked tofu for someone and then they turned out not to like it. Having said that, it is possible to make bad tofu, and then it is a bland, mushy, tasteless part of a meal. If you cook it this way though, it is really good, and perfect for Asian dishes!
- 2 blocks firm tofu (I buy the kind you get from Chinese supermarkets.)
- 1 cup Tempura flour/ wheat or corn flour (I prefer tempura flour, but I don't always have it in the home. When I don't have tempura flour, I use normal cake flour or corn flour. Corn flour will make it more crispy, but I personally prefer the taste of wheat flour.)
- Oil for deep frying.
Remove the tofu from the water it is packed in.
Cut into 5mm slices, or 2cm x 2cm cubes.
Place on a thick layer of kitchen paper, or a clean, absorbent cloth.
Sprinkle generously with salt, on all sides.
Cover with more kitchen paper, and let it stand for about 10 minutes.
Heat the oil well in a heavy bottom pan. To test - a small piece of tofu must immediately start frying and bubbling if you put it in.
Pat dry the tofu with more, dry kitchen paper. Cover well in the flour of your choice, and lower it gently into the hot oil with a strainer ladle. Don't put too much in your pan at once; it will break and too much moisture will affect the crispiness.
Remove from oil with a slotted spoon or strainer ladle, and place on kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.
Serve immediately, as part of a stir-fry, Thai curry or Asian soup. That is if you have any left - my son normally steels it all as it comes out of the pan!
It is not hard to make, but it is important to follow all the steps to get it right.
As a vegetarian, making gravy for a traditional roast with only veg can be tricky. Usually I’d use Ina Perlman’s gravy powder, but this week I decided to try a red wine reduction instead. I googled to find a recipe, but straight away hit a huge, insurmountable problem! The recipe called for leftover wine. So, I googled Leftover Wine, thinking it was the brand name of some special red wine reduction ingredient. Turns out it’s the wine that people don’t drink the night before. Obviously, I had to give up on my plan to make a red wine reduction right there!
But then Analize explained to me that I could also use the horrible box wine that’s been in my cupboard forever. A while back someone told me that Woolies dry red box wine is the best kept secret in town, and so I decided to try it and see for myself. It’s not a secret. Nobody’s talking about it because it’s not true. That particular box wine was undrinkable. At least for me. But it would do for a reduction.
So…what is a red wine reduction anyway? It’s basically red wine that’s been heated until the volume of the liquid has been reduced by approximately half. It’s tasty because it keeps the red wine flavours without tasting overwhelmingly alcoholic.
The science behind it is interesting and a tad confusing. We know that wine contains both ethyl alcohol and water molecules. Alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water (78 degrees Celsius for alcohol vs 100 degrees Celsius for water), so strictly speaking, when the wine is heated, all the alcohol should evaporate long before the water starts to boil and evaporate. Because of this, we would expect that once reduced to half its volume, the wine reduction would contain no alcohol at all. But it does! The good news is that it retains up to 10% of the alcohol.
But why is this? Apparently, this happy phenomenon is due to something called hydrogen bonding, which involves weak electrostatic forces. In the world of molecular bonding this can be compared to the vague attraction you may have to a fling as opposed to the lifelong connection to your soulmate. Nobody would waste a good Shiraz getting dronk verdriet over the breakup of two hydrogen bonded molecules. I’ve just finished watching season 6 of Sex and the City. Can you tell? So…these forces form weak bonds between the molecules of the two liquids in the wine, to create a uniform mixture known as an azeotropic mixture. When the mixture is heated, the hydrogen bonding ensures that some water molecules evaporate along with the alcohol, while equally ensuring that some of the alcohol molecules remain bonded to unevaporated water molecules. Remember that red wine on average contains not more than 14% alcohol to begin with, so the final reduction percentage makes sense. Does it? Or is it just that handy wine maths thing again?
The recipe is not rocket science, once you get around the leftover wine conundrum. You fry onions in olive oil or butter then add the wine, rosemary and vegetable stock. Simmer until the volume is reduced by about half. If you want less alcohol in your reduction, reduce the wine to half its volume first, before adding the vegetable stock and reducing it further.
I just love being a vegetarian!! So many reasons and ways to “drink” wine. Anyone for lunch?