Hope you guys have had a good week! I have started mine on an even keel, with everything coming together just fine, to crash down on Thursday and remain in a funk on Friday. Nothing big has happened, it’s just that my inner critic, which I’ve been trying to distance myself from a while now, went on a total rampage and got me impossibly down.
I’m so glad that I had the foresight to shoot this recipe earlier on in the week as the second part of the week turned out to be a total write off. As it’s been rather cold around these parts lately, I made a warming and comforting (yet healthy) tagine featuring jackfruit and chickpeas and a beautiful North African spice mix known as baharat (derived from the Arabic word for spice). As it’s a spice mix rather than a single spice, its ingredients and proportions may vary a little from cuisine to cuisine or even household to household, but they tend to include warming spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, paprika, allspice and black pepper. I purchased mine in my local corner store, which boasts an impressive collection of dry spices from all over the Mediterranean, the Middle East and India, but I have also seen a version of this spice mix in supermarkets so I am sure you will be able to get some with ease.
This recipe is inspired by a dish I had while visiting London in October. While I spent most of my time in London covered in paint and dust, I did manage to sneak out for a few low key meals with friends before another lockdown got announced. One day I met up with my friend Elie in beautiful Regent’s Park (oh how I miss that place!) and we had a lovely time chatting while sitting 2 meters apart from each other at far ends of the same bench and munching on a take away lunch. Mine was a vegan tagine box from LEON and I really enjoyed it, especially that it brought a touch of comfort to not the most relaxing al fresco lunch experience (it was too cold to eat outside for a start!) and I promised myself to recreate it in my own kitchen once I get back.
While the dish is enjoyable on its own, it really benefits from a drizzle of zhough, which LEON made with mint and parsley, but I personally prefer coriander, or coriander and parsley. It comes together in minutes and it makes a great addition not only to this particular dish, but also to pita pockets, hummus and salad bowls. I also recommend the addition of finely chopped quick-pickled (or preserved) lemons. They provide a beautiful contrast to the aromatic date-sweetened sauce and are just as versatile as zhough, especially if you are a fan of these sort of flavours.
Making quick-pickled lemons at home is easy and quick (I used this recipe) and once they’ve had a chance to hibernate in the fridge for a day, they really come into their own and give this dish a beautiful pop of flavour and colour too. I am pleased with the flavours here and I hope you’ll enjoy them too.
- 2 tbsp / 30 ml oil (I used olive oil)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 565 g / 20 oz tin of young jackfruit in brine, drained
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tsp finely grated ginger
- 5 tsp baharat spice mix
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari (for GF version)
- 400 g / 14 oz tin of peeled plum tomatoes / 3 medium, ripe tomatoes
- 1 vegetable (vegan) stock cube
- 1 fresh or dried bay leaf
- ½ tsp coarse sea salt, adjust to taste
- a few pinches of hot chilli (or a squeeze of harissa paste)
- 80 g / 2.8 oz / 4 Medjool (or other) dates, diced finely
- 400 g / 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tsp date syrup (optional)
- pomegranate arils, to serve
- quick-pickled or preserved lemon, chopped finely
- toasted almond flakes, to serve
- a small bunch of coriander (or 50% coriander and 50% parsley)
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- a good pinch of chilli flakes (I used pul biber)
- ½ tsp salt, more to taste
- olive oil
- squeeze of lemon (adding zest is nice too)
- Heat up the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot.
- Add the diced onion and fry it off gently until almost translucent, stirring from time to time.
- Meanwhile, cut off the fleshy bits of the jackfruit pieces and discard together with any seeds as they aren’t very nice to eat. Squash the jackfruit pieces down with a fork so that the fibres separate and set aside.
- Add chopped garlic and grated ginger to the pot with onion. Sauté all the aromatics together, stirring often so that they don’t burn.
- Add jackfruit pieces and baharat mix into the aromatics mixture. Fry the spices off gently for a minute or two (stirring the whole time) as they tend to burn easily.
- Stir in tomato paste, soy sauce, squashed plum tomatoes and their juices, vegan stock cube, bay leaf, salt, chilli (if using), chopped dates and 240 ml / 1 cup of water. If you consume alcohol and have any red wine to hand, a cup of red wine (instead of water) will also work a treat.
- Simmer on a low-medium heat until the tomato flesh breaks down and excess moisture evaporates, giving the pot a good stir from time to time. If the tomatoes are still chunky but the pot is starting to look a bit dry, be sure to top it up with more water. Simmer until the tomatoes are broken down and the sauce reaches the thickness you like.
- Add in cooked chickpeas towards the end of the simmering time.
- Finally, season with pomegranate molasses, date syrup or sugar (if needed) and extra salt (if needed). If you can, allow the flavours to mature for a day before consuming.
- Serve on some rice (I enjoy brown rice) with a dollop of zough, some finely chopped preserved or quick pickled lemons and toasted almonds.
- Put coriander leaves and delicate stems (leave the sturdier stems for a curry paste), garlic, spices and salt in a food processor. Pulse until minced finely or leave it a bit chunkier if you prefer.
- Drizzle in the oil while the processor is running. Stop once the mixture reaches a sauce consistency.
- Season with a good squeeze of lemon and some extra salt (if needed). Store in a jar in the fridge, it will keep for 1-2 weeks.