I’ve briefly mentioned my experiences of Morocco before, but if you’ve missed the little mentions here and there then I can summarise it in a TL;DR version of the story: “it’s probably a lovely place, but it’s not for me thanks”.
Like everyone, I know what I like and where I feel comfortable – unfortunately my two trips to Morocco have not sold me on the place. I don’t deny that eating at one of the food stalls that pop up around the Djemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakesh each night is a unique experience and one that I will never forget. Nor can I deny that the food I ate both there in Marrakesh and separately in Tangiers was pretty damn tasty and plentiful. Eating Tagine from a Tagine in Morocco really ticks a lot of “authentic” boxes, it has to be said. I just have no plans to do it again.
A big part of the charm of North African food is the way that they mix meat, pulses, grains and fruit together and envelop them in a rich blend of spices that really does make the whole better than the sum of its parts. Although you can never quite make something like a tagine taste quite the same in your own kitchen, the good news is that you can recreate a lot of the flavour as spices and dried fruits are some of those ingredients that travel pretty well .
With that being said, it won’t take long for you to notice that whilst this recipe is rich in spices it is rather lacking in meat, pulses or fruit… I’ll redress that balance in the future, as I’ve got a few future Tagine plans in the pipeline, but the lack of those ingredients doesn’t make this any less tasty.
The idea of a Mushroom Tagine came about when I was looking for a way to use up half a bag of Couscous that we had in the pantry – before it gets demolished – and also thinking of a different approach to our weekly “meat-free” meal. The spicing in here is generous, I can’t deny that, but it really does bring a deep flavour that you just wouldn’t get otherwise. I made this a couple of days in advance of eating it too, just to make sure that the flavours were as developed and robust as they could be.
Served on top of light, fluffy couscous with some salty griddled Halloumi (to temper the spices slightly and add some more texture) this would easily scale up as a party dish and would grace the centre of the table with pride.
Mushroom Tagine with Griddled Halloumi and Couscous
The "tagine" here is technically the name of the pot that this would be cooked in (if we were in North Africa) but here it's really used to describe the flavours and textures you should get, however you choose to cook it. The halloumi isn't entirely traditional (or indeed necessary) but I like the saltiness it brings to the dish - leave it out if you're feeling a bit purist!
for the Mushroom Tagine
- 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 1 Red Onion, peeled and sliced
- 1 tsp Ground Cumin
- ½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Ground Ginger
- ½ tsp Ground Turmeric
- ½ tsp Ground Coriander
- ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1 clove Garlic, crushed
- 250 g Mushrooms of your choice
- 1 tbsp Clear, runny Honey
- 1 Lemon, juiced and zested
- 400 g Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
for the Couscous
- 200 ml Good Quality Vegetable Stock
- 100 g Couscous
- 1 tsp Lemon Zest
- 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp Pine Nuts toasted
- 5 Fresh MInt Leaves finely chopped
- Small handful Fresh Parsley finely chopped
- 200 g Halloumi, sliced
for the Tagine
Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 10-15 minutes until they're tender and starting to turn translucent.
Add in the spices then mix well and cook out for a minute or two, before adding in the crushed garlic and mushrooms. Stir to ensure everything is coated and cook for 5 minutes to start softening the mushrooms.
Pour over the honey, lemon juice and lemon zest and stir, before adding in the chopped tomatoes. Put on a loose-fitting lid and cook for 25-30 minutes until the sauce has reduced to a thick consistency and the mushrooms are tender.
At this stage you can either cool the mixture and keep it in the fridge or freezer until needed, or carry straight on and prepare the couscous.
for the Couscous
Bring your stock to the boil and then pour over the couscous and cover. Allow the couscous to absorb the stock for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a dry griddle pan, or heavy frying pan, before adding in the sliced halloumi and cook for a couple of minutes on each side until warmed through and slightly charred.
When the couscous has absorbed all of the liquid uncover and stir through the olive oil, pine nuts and parsley.
Serve the couscous topped with the mushroom tagine and finally the halloumi. Enjoy!
You can easily make this Vegan by replacing the honey with the equivalent amount of soft brown sugar and not adding the griddled haloumi at the end.