Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Tagine of Butternut Squash, Pearl Onions, Raisins, and Almonds

There comes a time in one's life when the children mature (really, it does happen) and become honoured guests for dinner. All of a sudden Harry Chapin's Cat's in the Cradle starts to make a lot of sense as said children try to fit you in between working, university, projects, and their own social lives.

So when we are honoured with a visit, we try to lay out all the favourites. For my daughter, she loves an Eastern-style feast- generally vegetarian.

Since it is winter, we went with a warming tagine. A Moroccan style stew. Totally delicious and wonderfully fragrant. If you can, serve it with some condiments: like plain yogurt, preserved lemon or lemon wedges, oranges tossed with olives and red onions, and extra harissa sauce.

I like to do a nice table too, to make her feel special. And since I have read Perfect Table Settings I have upped my game. But as beautiful as we present dinner, we still let her eat in her pajamas. One of the perks of coming home for dinner.

Tagine of Butternut Squash, Pearl Onions, Raisins, and Almonds
adapted from Tagine, Spicy Stews from Morocco
Ghillie Basan

3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup frozen pearl onions (peeled), thawed
8 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
2/3 cup golden raisins
2/3 cup blanched almonds
3 tsp harissa paste* below
2 tbsp honey
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Handful of cilantro leaves, for garnish
Seeds of ½ pomegranate, for garnish
Lemon wedges, for serving

Heat oven to 350°F, prepare the racks to fit your tagine (or casserole dish).
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, stir in the onions and garlic and fry for 2 minutes. Add raisins and almonds and stir in the harissa and honey. Toss in squash, season with kosher salt and black pepper, toss- making sure it is totally covered in the seasonings. Pour everything into your tagine and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.
Toss gently, and adjust seasoning to taste. Top with cilantro leaves and pomegranate seeds. Serve with lemon wedges on rice or couscous.

Harissa - a spicy pepper condiment

8 dried hot chillies, soaked in hot water for 40 minutes. Drained.
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher or sea salt

Blend together in mortar and pestle or mini food processor, serve as a condiment