More useful than recipes, recipe templates can be used over and over to provide endlessly variable meals and work brilliantly for midweek suppers. I’m sharing my tried and tested formulas below. All of them can be adapted for the whole family so that you can cater for vegetarians, pescatarians, carnivores, carb eaters and carb dodgers alike. Feel to share what works for you by using the comments section below. Please keep it simple.
If you can invest in a proper tagine it makes it so much easier. I literally switch mine on, leave it for a couple of hours and come back for dinner. I imagine slow cookers would work well for these recipes too. Making a tagine couldn’t be easier and it’s always greeted with a higher than normal level of appreciation in our house. To me, this recipe is the definition of comfort food – warm, spicy and filling. Here’s the basic recipe:
1. Warm the tagine over the heat and add some olive oil to the base. Throw in a couple of handfuls of roughly chopped onion and add to these a generous amount (according to your taste) of spices. Typically I might add half a chilli, a teaspoon of cumin and coriander and whatever else goes with the meat or fish I’m using. Toss these all around in the oil until the onion starts to go transparent. Add a few whole garlic cloves.
2. Roughly chop enough vegetables (see below) for the number of people eating then make them into a little pile on the base of the tagine turning them in the spicy onion mixture.
3. If you are going to add meat, tuck it in among the vegetables. (If you’re using fish don’t add it until about 30 to 40 minutes before the end of the cooking time.) If you’re vegetarian you can also add some cooked chickpeas, lentils or beans towards the end of the cooking time, making sure they have enough time to warm through.
4. Season with a pinch of salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.
5. Pop the lid on the tagine, turn the heat down to minimum setting or pop in a slow oven for one and a half to 2 hours, checking the liquid levels half way through. If it’s drying out add a little water.
6. When it’s all cooked serve with a green salad or steamed greens and come Greek yoghurt (with fresh mint in if you like). Vegetarian tagines benefit from a crumble of Feta and a sprinkle of slivered almonds.
7. Those eating carbs can soak up the juices with some steamed cous cous, or bread. You’ll need a spoon!
Spices Traditional tagine spices are cumin, saffron, coriander, cinnamon, chilli, paprika. I also play with cloves, allspice, turmeric, cardamom. I normally add some fresh or dried thyme too, and always add a few whole garlic cloves which melt and caramelise during the cooking.
Meat choices: all meats work really well in a tagine as they become meltingly tender and fall from the bone. Think chicken thighs or legs, lamb or pork chops , duck legs, generous chunks of beef or lamb or pork, perhaps with some added chorizo or sausage. Just take the meat you were going to eat for supper and sling it in the tagine.
Fish choices: Fish works just as well but is best added later – about 30 minutes before you are planning to eat. The firmer fishes work best and seafood is great in a tagine.
Vegetables: the field is wide open here, the only vegetable I wouldn’t cook in a tagine is lettuce!! Think aubergine, carrots, peppers, courgettes, tomatoes, fennel, onion, leek, squash, garlic, mushrooms, celeriac, beetroot all in the early stages. You can also add some extra veg towards the end: peas, spinach, etc.
Fruit: the occasional addition of fruit lifts tagines to another level. Dried fruit works best and won’t blow your diet if you’re moderate about it. One dried apricot per person can add a honeyed sweetness if you like that sort of thing. Prunes give a deep sweet and savoury note.
Nuts work very well with tagines. I often sprinkle a few slivered almonds over the top as I serve it, and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.
ME-2 MISO TEMPLATE
I was a bit slow getting in on the act with miso soup, believing it to be something complicated and strange. In fact, miso paste is simply an excellent savoury base that can be added to lots of dishes and has a range of health benefits. Perfect for adding flavour to all sorts of low carb dishes. It comes in a variety of colours – most recipes use white miso but they are all delicious. This recipe is simple and endlessly adaptable.
- 1 kilo of chopped root veg (beetroot, celeriac, carrots)
- 1 onion quartered
- 2 garlic cloves
- handful of parsley or coriander stalks
- 1 litre Marigold bouillon
- 2 tsp white miso
- 1 green chilli
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain into another pan and add the miso, chilli and lemon juice, adjusting to suit your taste. Do not re-boil this stock (now or later) or the final taste will be bitter. You now have your basic miso broth to which you can add anything you like, such as:
cooked: tofu, mushrooms, courgette, broccoli,prawns, chorizo, salmon, scallops, squid, duck, chicken, etc.
raw: shredded mange tout, carrots, courgette, spinach, cucumber, peppers, coriander, basil, mint, chilli, ginger, lime leaves, etc.
3 of my favourite combinations are:
- chicken, coriander, red chilli, shredded mange tout
- prawns, chorizo, shredded Savoy cabbage
- courgette, red pepper, celery
Cook some noodles for any carb-eating diners and ladle the broth over the top.
HINT: You can also buy sachets of miso soup – Clearspring is a good brand – and cut out the broth-making stage above.