After the falafel, it was only natural that the progression to authentic tagine took place.
Whenever I type tagine into my iPhone, autocorrect puts it all in capitals, as if to emphasise the merits of the fragrant veg and shout to the world that ‘This is the dish you all wish you were eating, not that Co-Op Pizza, not that plain risotto, this! This marvelous, marvelous, steam concoction!’
My buddy Groundsey did the Morocco Hitch over Easter and brought back a fine specimen of a tagine, along with 35 spices (one for every mm of film in a standard camera), and so she prepped the meal for me. It was so good I forced her (at gunpoint) to copy out the recipe, as it should be practically illegal to keep such tasty secrets to yourself.
Here it is:
(serves 3…tagine not 100% necessary; you can use a saucepan with a lid on)
1 baking potato
2 cloves of garlic
35 spices (have fun sourcing those)
Serve with cous cous
1) Fry all the vegetables in a little olive oil for 10 mins
2) Add the spices (if you are panicking about not having 35 then just bung in all the classics – cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, pepper etc) and fry them off for 2 minutes
3) Transfer to tagine/almost-equally-good-but-less-ethnic-looking saucepan
4) (This is a direct quote) “add copious water amounts”
5) Simmer for 2 hours or more, checking frequently that the water hasn’t boiled off, adding more if it has
6) Serve immediately with cous cous, crusty bread and hummus
‘Yum’ is the standard reaction to this, unless you are one of those meat fanatics who is slightly repulsed by the idea of too many vegetables in one place.
If you are one of these people, then please do add some chicken thigh to the recipe (fry it at the beginning before adding it to the tagine along with the vegetables) and enjoy the protein it gives you.
(I have just realised that the traditional way to spell tagine is tajine. I wish I had been using that spelling so I looked worldly and accurate, but it’s too late to go back now.)
In terms of la musique, I am going to ride along the vegetable road to arrive at the Beach Boys’ surreal Vegetable song. Admittedly, it is a bit disconcerting. However, I personally have a huge love for vegetables (almost as huge as my love for chutney, but not quite) so I can empathise with the sentiments expressed, especially in the following lines:
I’m gonna keep well my vegetables
Cart off and sell my vegetables
I love you most of all
My favorite vege-table
Oh oh taba vega vegel
Whilst not only allowing the audience to clearly understand the adoration the speaker feels for his/her vegetables (gender unknown), this extract can also be seen to promote the benefits of growing your own, which is highly relevant to today’s supermarket obsessed, shrink wrapped society.
Furthermore, the closing statement of ‘Oh oh taba vega vegel’ makes lots of sense and is fundamental to the understanding of the song as a whole.
Now that your real teeth have had a blast, it’s time to sink your metaphorical teeth into something equally tasty, and it comes in the form of ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe.
It’s all about yams – yams are everywhere: here, there, hanging out in their lair (freestyle rap is not my forté), as the livelihood of the whole village depends on the yam harvest.
‘Things Fall Apart’ (the centre cannot hold… Yeats innit) follows the Ibo tribe in Central Africa, using the life of protagonist Okonkwe to mirror the tragic effects of colonisation. It’s written in English, but the African vernacular and the peppering of many italicised words from Ibo language alter the sentence structure and give the impression of a native narration.
This also serves to point the finger at the Western world, who are responsible for colonisation, so it’s not a comfortable read by any means. The ending in particular gives a Western reader a feeling of strange, uncomfortable guilt. Give it a go anyway… particularly if you’re feeling yammy.