This is such a showstopping dish and although there are several parts to it, it is simple enough to make. The Tfaya topping is optional but recommended and the couscous itself can be made 10 minutes before serving. Please read the instructions thoroughly first here so you know the stages and process.
There are no rules for which type of vegetables you need to add and in Morocco the mix would change seasonally depending on what’s available. This particular dish originates from Casablanca but is eaten all over Morocco and I have heard it’s popular as a family Friday lunch when everyone gets together after prayers.
Traditionally some kind of meat or poultry would be also added and as is traditional in Morocco it is generally a small amount which is shared after one has eaten all the vegetables (it is considered very rude manners to go for the meat first!).
It’s especially delicious when topped with a tfaya – a caramelized onion and raisin garnish which goes well over any couscous (or rice in fact) dish. In Morocco couscous is made in a special steaming basket (couscoussier) that is put over the vegetables or stew while they cook but it is a rather laborious process that in my humble opinion doesn’t yield much better results that soaking the couscous in boiling salted water – not worth the extra hassle as far as I am concerned although I am sure many a Moroccan would argue this point with me!
Ingredients for 8 people
2 onions peeled and sliced
400g peeled and cubed butternut squash
2 red peppers cut into largish pieces
1 large or 1 small turnips peeled and cut to same size as butternut pieces
2 Large carrots peeled and sliced
2 smallish aubergines cubed or 1 large aubergine cubed
½ head of cauliflower broken into florets
6 small courgettes
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp Moroccan spice mix OR 1 tsp of: Turmeric, paprika, coriander, cumin and ½ tsp: Cinnamon & ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp cumin seeds
Handful green olives
½ preserved lemon seeded and chopped up finely (or chop up the flesh of 1/2 lemon)
2 tbsp ghee & 1 tbsp olive oil
Handful fresh coriander
400-500ml Vegetable stock
Vegetables you could also use: Small Cabbage quartered, tomatoes quartered, sweet potato, potato, celeriac and you can also add cooked chickpeas.
Heat your oil and ghee in a heavy based large saucepan or casserole pot and once hot add the cumin seeds and fry for 1 minute or so.
Add your sliced onions and cook for 4 mins till translucent then adding the ginger and the garlic and cooking for a further 2 to 3 minutes.
Add your Carrots & turnips first and cook for 8 mins lowering the heat and covering the pot as these vegetables take much longer.
Next add your aubergine and butternut stirring well and covering the pot and cooking the vegetables for another 5 minutes on a moderate heat. You may have to add a splash of water but you want the vegetables to colour slightly first.
Next add your spices, salt, olives and preserved lemon and 400ml of hot vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. You don’t want the vegetables to be covered in liquid so you may need to adjust the amount of stock you add depending on the shape and size of your pot. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add your peppers and cauliflower and cover and simmer another 10mins.
Check on the vegetables and remove the cover giving them a gentle but thorough stir – if there is too much liquid you can leave the lid off and reduce the liquid slightly.
If all the vegetables seem cooked – you don’t want them mushy – then add the chopped coriander and place your washed whole baby courgettes on top of the veggies and cover and steam them for 4 to 5 mins. You don’t want them to lose their vibrance or texture.
For the couscous:
Make this 10-15 minutes before you want to serve:
400g couscous (I prefer wholemeal as it has a nuttier flavour)
400ml boiling vegetable stock or water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Place the dry couscous in a medium sized bowl.
Whisk the vegetable oil, butter and salt into the hot stock or water till combined and pour over the couscous giving it a stir with a fork. Cover with a plate or cling film and leave for 10 minutes till all the liquid is fully absorbed.
Use a fork to fluff the couscous and break up any clumps and add more seasoning if you feel it necessary. Serve warm.
Tfaya – Caramelized Onions and Raisins
1/2 cup raisins or sultanas, soaked for 30mins in water
1 red onion
2 tbsp butter or ghee
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 pinch salt
1 tsp honey or maple syrup
Fry down the onions gently in the ghee until browned and caramelised slightly. Add the raisins and fry for a further 5 mins before adding the spices and salt. Once the onions and raisins and nicely caramelised add your honey or maple syrup and cook for a further 2 minutes taking care not to allow the onions to burn.
Place your fluffed-up couscous on the large tray or plate and push it out to the sides to leave a well in the centre.
Place your warmed vegetables in the centre and top with the courgettes and the tfaya and serve immediately. You can also serve this with some flat breads and a nice chopped fresh salad and I often serve another meat based tagine with it if I am entertaining. ENJOY!