You can add dates, dried apricots or almonds for added sweetness and texture in this vegetable tagine.
You can add dates, dried apricots or almonds for added sweetness and texture in this vegetable tagine. Photo: William Meppem

VEGETABLE TAGINE

2 tbsp olive oil

2 large red onions, cut into wedges

Grilled quail with harissa.
Grilled quail with harissa.

1/2 tbsp sea salt

4 peeled carrots, cut into sticks

8 celery sticks, cut into sticks

2 red capsicums, cut into strips

2 cups fresh vegetable stock

1 3/4 cups vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped

400g canned chickpeas, rinsed well

2 1/2 tbsp honey

3 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup Ligurian olives

1/4 cup parsley leaves

1/4 cup coriander leaves

steamed couscous, to serve

chermoula

1 tsp garlic, chopped

1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves

1/4 cup coriander leaves

1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground sweet paprika

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

pinch of ground chilli powder

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp sea salt

Serves 4

 

Process all chermoula ingredients in a blender until a paste is formed.

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and salt, cook until slightly softened. Add chermoula paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until spices are fragrant and fried off.

Add carrots, celery, capsicum, stock and tomatoes and cook, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and cook, covered, for a further 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Stir in honey, lemon juice and olives, Garnish with parsley and coriander leaves and serve with steamed couscous.

 

GRILLED QUAIL WITH HARISSA 

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to dress

1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped

pinch of ground coriander

pinch of ground cumin

pinch of sweet paprika

¼ tsp sea salt

4 x large quail, butterflied and backbone removed

mint leaves, to garnish

lemon juice, to dress

harissa

¼ tsp coriander seeds

¼ tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp grapeseed oil

4 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1 large red capsicum, diced

1 tbsp light palm sugar, finely chopped

2 tsp fish sauce

pinch of chilli powder

Serves 4

 

Combine the olive oil, garlic, spices and salt. Mix well.

Toss the quail in the spiced oil until well coated and marinate for 1-2 hours in the fridge. Remove the quail from the fridge 1 hour before cooking to bring to room temperature.

Heat the grill to medium-high heat, place quail skin side down and cook until golden, then turn over and sear on the other side (this should take about 3-4 minutes on each side). Rest the quail for 5 minutes in a warm place.

To make the harissa, carefully roast spices in pan over low heat until fragrant. Crush in a mortar until fine.

Heat oil in a heavy-based pan and add garlic and capsicum. Sweat, uncovered, over a very low heat for about 2 hours or until very soft. Stir often to prevent sticking.

Increase heat add palm sugar and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes until well caramelised. The mixture should go a reddish brown colour. Add fish sauce, roasted spices and chilli powder, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Cool mixture then process with a blender until smooth.

Place a quail on each plate along with a dollop of harissa. Garnish with mint leaves, drizzle over olive oil and lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

HOT TIPS

* You can replace the quail with chicken - just grill four breasts, being careful not to overcook them.

* Harissa keeps well in the fridge. It's addictive stuff, so use it on barbecued and pan-fried meats and fish.

* Add sautéed chicken or lamb dice to the tagine if you want it to be more substantial. Dates, dried apricots or almonds are also a nice addition.

 

SOMETHING TO DRINK

Pinot noir
A soft wine with hints of cranberry, red currant and spice, Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir ($30), from Martinborough, NZ, matches the gamey quail, its spicy notes enhancing the harissa.

 

Photography by William Meppem. Food styling by Hannah Meppem. Food preparation by Nick Banbury.