Moroccan Butternut Squash and Chickpea Tagine

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I originally posted this recipe as a guest post on Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary’s blog.  They are a wonderful organisation who do amazing compassionate work with farm animals.   I will explain more about their organisation after I have explained the recipe!

This Moroccan inspired vegetable tagine is bursting with flavour as well as nutrients.  The wide variety of vegetables ensure you are getting plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Moroccan cooking requires some specialised ingredients, but I am all for being flexible and creative in the kitchen!  You can easily adapt this dish if you don’t have them to hand.  Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan spice mix. Traditionally this was an individual mixture of the most common and best available spices sold by each vendor in the market, the name ‘Ras El Hanout’ meaning ‘best of the shop’.

Ras El Hanout is widely available as a ready made spice blend but if you can’t get your hands on it, try making up your own blend using traditional Moroccan spices according to your own tastes.  Some of the traditional spices used in Moroccan cooking are cumin, ground coriander, cinnamon, sweet paprika, ginger, turmeric, fenugreek, cardamom, nutmeg and anise.  Harissa is a fiery paste made from red chilli peppers and garlic.  It is what gives this dish it’s kick.  If you can’t get any harissa, try adding in some dried red chilli pepper flakes and an extra clove of garlic.  Preserved lemons are lemons which have been pickled in fermented brine and spices. Replace with two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice if you have no preserved lemon, but if they are available near you it is worth trying them out as they add a wonderful depth of flavour.

Tagines are traditionally served with couscous or bulgar wheat. If you are avoiding wheat you could try spelt couscous. For gluten free options try serving with Moroccan rice, or quinoa for a really nutritious meal!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 butternut squash, diced
  • 1 can chickpeas (240g drained)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ⅓ cup dried apricots, chopped
  • ⅓ cup flaked almonds (reserve some for garnish)
  • 2 tsp Moroccan ras el hanout
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 1 tbsp harissa
  • 1/2 preserved lemon
  • 20 mint leaves (some extra for garnish)

Dry fry the almonds on a low heat until browning and set aside. Heat some oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and red pepper and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the chickpeas and spices and stir well. Add the stock, harissa, mint and preserved lemon.  Stir to combine and then add the carrots and butternut squash. Bring the saucepan to the boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the apricots, almonds and cherry tomatoes and then simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the squash and carrots are tender.  Garnish with some more toasted almonds and fresh mint leaves.

Now on to the wonderful work of Mino Valley farm animal sanctuary, whose owners were originally from the UK but moved to Gallica, Northern Spain looking for a simpler life.  Those behind Mino Valley believe that all animals deserve our love, respect and kindness, and they aim to create a safe haven for rescued farm animals to live out their lives in freedom -free from pain, suffering and the burden of expectation. Their very admirable mission is Rescue. Rehabilitate. Educate.

I shed a tear (ok, definitely more than one tear!!) reading the stories of the animals which have been lucky enough to have found a new home at Mino Valley.  Here are just two examples.

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Arwen Gandalf

“Since arriving at Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary our lives have been transformed beyond our wildest dreams, and for the first time we believe that we may actually have a chance at happiness.  Before coming here all we had ever known was the inside of a tiny cage barely big enough to even turn around.  We led a lonely life only knowing of each others existence by sound but never sight.  We never knew sunlight, and we were never allowed outside to stretch our legs.

Not being able to exercise caused me to lose all strength in my back legs and now I can only drag myself from place to place.  Us pigs are naturally clean animals that would never go to toilet where we sleep and eat, but our cages were never cleaned out and we were forced to live in a pile of our own excrement for years, to the point that our legs and feet are badly damaged.  We were only given just enough food to keep us alive.

The farmer had a short temper and I never understood why he was so aggressive and cruel towards us. Eagerly we awaited food, yet equally we feared our tormentors arrival not knowing what blow he would deliver next.  For years we lived like this, and each day felt longer than the last, especially those when no-one came to give us food and water.

When someone found out about the terrible conditions we were living in they tried to find us a new home where we would be loved and cared for.   Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary chanced across our story and set to work immediately to get us out of there.  When the people finally came to rescue us they were horrified when they saw we were all skin and bones and desperately malnourished.   After a long 9 hour journey across Spain we arrived at the sanctuary.  With our new lives come our new names; Gandalf, Frodo and Arwen.

We never knew that beyond those four walls that confined us was a whole other world.   A kind world where we get to feel the sunshine on our backs and earth under our feet.   A world where we can snuffle from morning to night, feast on fresh fruit and vegetables and explore the wonders of the forest.”

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“We are Mario and Olivia and we have travelled all the way from Seville to get to Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary.  When we were very little we lived in a terrible place where it was considered normal to kill us sheep with a kick in the head when we are small or by slitting the throat when we are adults.  Our owner didn’t look after us properly and he said we were worthless, so he decided he was going to stamp on our heads too.

Someone from one of the local dog shelters heard about us and came to our rescue.  When they saw us they couldn’t believe the awful state we were in. They bottle fed us and gave us so much love and attention, and we came to learn that not all humans were as bad as we thought.  We enjoyed our time at Fundación Benjamín Mehnert very much but it was only ever a temporary home for us.

Fundación Benjamín Mehnert searched high and low for the perfect place for us to spend the rest of our lives where we could live free, and in the end they decided that place was Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary.”

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I am so in awe of the fantastic difference that this farm sanctuary makes to the lives of the animals, as well as raising awareness of the suffering and cruelty which is inflicted on these innocent, defencless animals, and billions more like them.

To learn more about the sanctuary, adopt a farm animal, or make a donation, check out their website, blog, facebook and twitter!

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2 thoughts on “Moroccan Butternut Squash and Chickpea Tagine

    • Thanks Laura! My brother brought the bowl back from his travels in Morocco. Tagine pots like this are traditionally meant to be placed in an oven or on the fire to cook the food within, but this glazed pretty one is for decorative serving purposes only! ;-)
      Rowena

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