The Musette: aubergine, buckwheat and cashew tangine

This month’s recipes from the Great British Chef’s Cook Book belong to Marcus Waring and come from his recently published cookery book New Classics. When I lived in London, I was fortunate to eat in some of his restaurants  – divine! I have all of his previous cookery books which contain some of my “most cooked” recipes and, even though they are very much geared towards the home cook, they still contain incredible depth of flavours and textures. I frequently dip into them when I want to impress my French friends and prove that the English can cook. Of course, Marcus is probably now better known for his role on MasterChef: The Professionals.

This is one of three recipes from New Classics and my beloved is certainly hoping (and praying) I’ll cook all three of them. But I’ve started with this vegan take on a tagine which includes an incredible homemade spice mix that gives real depth of and layers of flavour to the dish. Marcus’s recipe uses freekeh, a type of ancient wheat grain with a nutty taste, which I’ve substituted with buckwheat because it’s what I had in the cupboard and it has a similarly satisfyingly chewy texture, plus it goes perfectly with the crunchy cashews and soft, yielding aubergine. It’s a great, healthy dish that ticks all the boxes in terms of flavour and texture and was even better reheated the following day!

Ingredients (enough for 4 hungry cyclists)

Tagine

  • 100g (1 cup) cashew nuts
  • 200g (2 cups) buckwheat, freekeh or quinoa
  • 4 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
  • 3 medium onions (approx. 250g/9 oz), finely chopped
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 thumb-sized knob fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 400ml (1 2/3 cup) passata, or a 400g (14 oz) tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 250ml (1 cup) vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp pomegranate molasses or black treacle
  • 50g (1/2 cup) raisins or currants
  • 2 tsp saffron strands, soaked in 1 tbsp of warm water for 10 minutes
  • 2 aubergines (approx. 500g/1 lb), cut into 2cm dice
  • 1 bunch coriander, chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Spice mix

  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground tumeric
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/(400°F)/gas mark 6.

2. Put the cashew nuts on a roasting tray and bake for 5 minutes until golden. Remove, leave to cool, then chop roughly. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C/140°C fan/(325°F)/gas mark 3.

3. Cook the buckwheat/freekeh/quinoa for half of the time stated on the packet instructions, then drain and leave to cool.

4. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large casserole dish over medium heat. Add the onions, season with sea salt and pepper and sauté for about 10 minutes until they are soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and ginger for the last 3–4 minutes, then add the tomato purée, the passata or chopped tomatoes, stock, vinegar, molasses or treacle, raisins or currants and saffron to the casserole and remove from the heat.

5. Heat a dry large frying pan over high heat and, when hot, add the spices for the spice mix and stir them for 3–4 minutes until fragrant. Transfer the spices to a mortar and crush with the pestle. Mix with the flour and table salt in a large plastic bag or bowl.

6. Add 1 tbsp oil to the frying pan and place back on the heat. Season the diced aubergine generously with the spiced flour and fry it in the oil, in 3 batches, until golden, adding 1 tbsp oil to each subsequent batch.

7. Add half of the chopped coriander to the casserole,  the part-cooked buckwheat/freekeh/quinoa and the spiced aubergine. Sprinkle with three-quarters of the chopped cashew nuts.

8. Bring to the boil, cover with a circle of greaseproof paper, put on the the lid and transfer to the oven for around an hour until the buckwheat/freekeh/quinoa is tender and the sauce thickened. Serve sprinkled with the remaining coriander and cashew nuts.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. I’ve played a bit fast and loose with Marcus’s recipe yet it still tasted wonderful.

2. If you don’t have some of the ingredients in your cupboard think about what might be an appropriate substitution. That said, I think the aubergines are pretty central to the dish. However, I believe you could successfully substitute the cashew nuts with hazelnuts, almonds or walnuts.

3. I used buckwheat instead of freekeh but equally you could use quinoa, farro or barley. You need something with a bit of bite.

4. I had all of the spices but if you don’t have cumin or coriander seeds, substitute with the ground spice.

5. I had a tin of black treacle but couldn’t be bothered to open a new tin for just a tsp so instead used pomegranate molasses.

6. Always use a timer when roasting nuts in the oven because it’s so easy to leave them for too long and burn them!

 

The Musette: a riff on ratatouille and caponata

I generally love shopping daily, finding inspiration in the local shops and markets for the day’s meals. However, when I’m on my own, I’m quite happy to make a pot of something which I can use in a number of different ways for a variety of meals. Often necessity is the mother of invention and the dish comes from whatever I have sitting in the fridge.

I love Ratatouille, a dish hailing from Nice, because it’s one way of using the abundance of summer sun-ripened vegetables. As a general rule, I use equal quantities of each vegetable – tomatoes, peppers, onions, courgettes and aubergines. I would generally sauté each vegetable separately in olive oil and assemble them at the end, as in my lasagne recipe. This guarantees that each one retains its colour, flavour and texture. However, on my regime I’m not supposed to sauté vegetables in olive oil plus I didn’t have any courgettes, so I opted for a mix of the Niçois dish with some ingredients from one which is typically Sicilian, Caponata. Note, I used passata rather than fresh tomato sauce because I was also out of fresh tomatoes!

Ingredients (serves 6 as a side dish, or 4 as a main)

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (neutral flavoured)
  • 2 small aubergines, cut into 2cm (1″) cubes
  • 1 large red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli pepper, finely chopped, or tsp chilli flakes
  • 4 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks or small fennel bulb, cut into 2cm (1″) pieces
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 150g (1 cup) black olives, pitted
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  •  500ml (2 cups) passata or 4 very large tomatoes
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method

1. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place them in a  saucepan with a pinch of salt. Gently bring to the boil and cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened. Strain through a food mill or large-holed sieve to remove the skins.

2. Heat 1tbsp coconut oil a large saucepan, sweat the red onion, red chilli pepper, red pepper and garlic over a medium heat for 10 minutes until lightly caramelised. Add 2 tbsp of tomato paste and cook lightly to get rid of its raw flavour.

3. Now, add the diced aubergines, strained tomatoes or passata, and season. Bring to the boil, cover with greaseproof (parchment) paper, clamp on the lid and simmer gently for an hour. The parchment paper prevents the mixture from drying out. You’ll need to cook it for this long to soften the aubergine. Alternatively, fry both aubergine and pepper in olive oil and cook for only 20 minutes.

4. If the capers are salted, soak them for 2 minutes, then drain. If brined or in vinegar, drain and rinse. Add the capers and olives, stir and leave to sit for at least 2 hours, stirring gently once or twice. The finished dish needs to rest for at least an hour – ideally three. It’s even better the next day, and keeps well in the fridge for up to four days.

5. This dish can be served either at room temperature or cold, as a main or side dish. I also love it as a sauce with penne or heaped over some sweet potatoes or cauliflower rice.

6. You can make it more Sicilian by adding a handful of raisins, toasted pine nuts, a tbsp of sugar and 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar for a sweet-sour hit. I’ll often do this a couple of days later to give it a slightly different flavour.