I’m spending a little time in the UK right now (sans tajine) and we were hankering for a taste of ‘home’ so I rustled up a vegetarian chickpea tajine. My recipe is based on one by Hilaire Walden from the book North African Cooking, but as I am almost pathologically unable to prepare a recipe exactly as it is written, it has a my own twist. Of course, I am not particularly good at sticking to precise measurements either, so give this a go and experiment to your own preferential level of spice!
This recipe is specifically designed to be made in a pan (not a tajine), although you could serve it in a tajine for that Moroccan effect.
Vegetarian Chickpea Tajine with Aubergines (serves 2)
240g tin of chickpeas, drained (or soak about 100g of dried chickpeas and boil before using)
3 large, flavourful tomatoes (tinned or fresh) – add some tomato puree if you are using out of season tomatoes!
1 onion (red or white)
1 large aubergine
fresh flat leaf parsley
olive oil (the type you can cook with, not extra virgin)
pinch of saffron threads, crushed
1/2 tsp each of paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander, harissa (or dried chilli flakes)
1/4 tsp ground ginger (or grate a small chunk of fresh ginger in with the onions)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (or use a cinnamon stick)
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1. Heat a good couple of tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. Finely chop or grate the onion and fry until it’s translucent. Add crushed or chopped garlic to taste (at least a clove) and fresh ginger or chilli if you use them. Add all the dried spices. You don’t want to burn them, so don’t have the heat too high. Once the spices release their aromas, add the tomato puree if you are using it.
2. If you use tinned tomatoes, chop them (or use ready-chopped). If your tomatoes are fresh, halve them around their middle (the equator not the poles!) and grate into the pan, discarding the skin. Add the chickpeas and some chopped parsley and coriander (at least a tablespoon of each, depending on your taste). Keep some chopped herbs to garnish at the end.
3. Add salt and pepper and simmer gently with the lid on, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Check part way through and adjust spices as necessary.
4. While it’s cooking, make the aubergine topping. Slice the aubergine into rounds of a bit less than 1cm thickness. Heat a significant glug of oil in a good frying pan. Once it’s hot, fry the aubergine disks. I prefer to dunk them in the oil on one side and then fry on the other side before turning over. Otherwise you’ll find the aubergine absorbs all the oil when you fry the first side and there is none left for the second side. They are ready when they go soft and the colour has changed to a golden brown. Let them soak off excess oil on a piece of kitchen paper on a plate.
5. Once everything is ready, pour the chickpea mixture into your serving bowl/taking and arrange the aubergine on top. Sprinkle with chopped herbs before serving.
6. Moroccans typically eat tajine with hunks of fresh bread. If you prefer a non-gluten option, make it a little runnier and serve with quinoa.
7. To bulk this out and serve more people, add diced carrots and/or potatoes. These vegetables need a lot of water to become as soft as the chickpeas, so add a little stock or water at the tomato stage and delay adding the chickpeas until the vegetables are partially cooked.
8. I think – if you made this a bit spicier – you could calm it down with a dollop of Greek yogurt or ricotta. Not very Moroccan, but I think it would taste great!