I recently inherited both a tagine and an accompanying recipe book: “Tagine, Spicy Stews from Morocco” by Ghillie Basan. Never having used a tagine before, but having been assured that they’re dead-easy to use, I combed through the book till I found a recipe that appealed.
Creamy Shellfish Tagine with Fennel & Harissa
Serves: 4-6 (yeah right, more like 2)
Accompaniments: Rice or crusty bread
- 1 lb fresh mussels in their shells, scrubbed clean and rinsed
- 1 lb shrimp in their shells, thoroughly rinsed
- freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4-6 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 fennel bulb, chopped
- 1-2 teaspoons harissa paste
- 2/3 cup of cream
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- a generous bunch of coriander, finely chopped
- Put the mussels and shrimp in a wide saucepan with just enough water to cover them. Add the lemon juice, cover the pan, and bring the liquid to a boil. Shake the pan and cook the shellfish for about 3 minutes, until the shells of the mussels have opened. Drain the shellfish, reserve the liquor, and discard any mussels that have not opened. Refresh the mussels and shrimp under cold running water and shell most of them.
- Heat the olive oil in a tagine on the stovetop. Stir in the shallots and fennel and sauté until soft. Stir in the harissa paste and pour in 1 and a 1/4 cups of the reserved cooking liquor (from the shellfish). Bring the liquid to a boil and continue to boil for 2-3 minutes, reduce the heat, and stir in the cream. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes to let the flavours mingle, season to taste with salt and lots of black pepper, and stir in the mussels and shrimp. Toss in half of the coriander, cover with the lid, and cook gently for about 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle the remaining coriander over the top and serve immediately.
On the second go, I made some changes, which in my opinion improved the recipe
- I use New Zealand green-shell mussels, available from (my favourite) Woolworths … and no, they are not sponsoring this blog … yet
These come par-cooked and cleaned, which cuts down the prep time. I don’t like the liquid they come in though, far too murky for me to just throw into the tagine, so I strain the liquor through a paper-towel lined sieve. Well worth the 3 minutes waiting for it to seep through, as you get a lovely, clear, flavourful liquid. This changes Step 1, in that you don’t have the cook the mussels anymore, they just get heated through in Step 2.
- Thoroughly recommend swapping shrimp for Black Tiger Prawns (or any other large variety prawn available to you). Remember to clean them and then cook them in a little butter (instead of the water) and lemon juice, as per Step 1.
- I don’t know much about fennel (blush) and it isn’t always easy to get here in South Africa, so I skip this ingredient altogether and instead chop up some red chillies and spring onion, as a substitute.
- For colour and sweetness, I stir in some halved cherry tomatoes right at the end, when I add the shellfish to the tagine, to allow them to heat through, but retain their shape.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I am a huge fan of Thai-style food. This is a recipe I tried for the very first time this weekend and it was so easy to make and so yummy! Don’t think I’ve ever had guests lick their plates before (they’re either very comfortable with me or it was just that good).
This recipe is from the fabulous “Good Food for Friends” recipe book by BBC GoodFood Magazine. If you don’t have it yet, I heartily recommend it, as the recipes are all simple to prepare, freeing up the entertainer so they don’t spend the whole night in the kitchen. I added one or two touches myself – my changes are marked below – two of which I think make it absolutely sublime (the mango and the toasted sesame seeds). But you be the judge.
Thai Beef Salad
Serves: 6 as a main course
For the dressing
- 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 4 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons light muscovado sugar
- 1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
For the salad
- 650g piece of fillet steak
- half a cucumber
- 12 radishes
- 150g fresh beansprouts
- a cos lettuce
My changes (use ‘em, don’t use ‘em … up to you)
- Added ripe rosa tomatoes, cause they’re yum – diced
- Added mango, goes great with Thai flavours – thin slices – highly recommended, know it might sound weird, but OMG
- Added spring onions – first cut into thirds, then cut into thin strips lengthwise
- Added sesame seeds – lightly toasted
- Used palm sugar instead of muscovado, cause palm sugar is a common ingredient in Thai recipes
- Didn’t measure anything (except the first 3 dressing ingredients), based it all on how it looked and personal preference
- I only used 3 tablespoons, instead of 4, of Thai fish sauce (it’s such a pungent sauce and they differ from brand to brand, so wanted to play it safe)
- Didn’t use mint in the dressing (not a fan) and added a small amount of grated ginger (cause I just love the smell)
- Preheat a griddle pan. Season the beef with pepper (I spritzed it with olive oil first – helps the seasonings to stick to the meet and gives the meet good colour – and used salt too). Cook for 5-7 minutes, turning once, until it is cooked on the outside but still pink in the middle. Leave to rest for 15 minutes, then slice thinly.
- Make the dressing – mix together the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, chilli and garlic (and ginger if you like), then stir in the herbs.
- Using a vegetable peeler, shave the cucumber into long thin strips and then the radishes into thin circles. Mix with the beef slices and beansprouts (and tomatoes and spring onions if you elect to use them). Stir in the dressing.
- Arrange the smaller lettuce leaves onto 6 plates. Tear the large ones into pieces and add to the salad ingredients, mixing well to coat the lettuce in the dressing. Spoon the salad onto the plates (then add the mango slices if you’ve decided to try this). Garnish with coriander (or toasted sesame seeds and a few reserved radish circles).
Tried this delicious recipe by Delia Smith, from “Delia’s Complete How to Cook”.
It’s hard to believe that a recipe as simple and as quick as this could taste so good, but I can assure you it’s an absolute winner.
Stir-Fried Chicken with Lime & Coconut
Accompaniments: Thai fragrant rice
- 2 free range, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- zest and juice of 1 large lime
- 150ml (5 fl oz) tinned coconut milk
- 1 dessert spoon olive oil
- 1 green chilli – deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 dessert spoon Thai fish sauce
- handful of fresh coriander leaves
- handful of spring onions – cut into shreds, including the green parts
You’ll need a large frying pan or wok.
- Chop the chicken into bite size pieces and place them in a bowl with the lime juice and zest (I also added some Maldon salt). Stir well and leave to marinate for an hour.
- Heat the oil in your frying pan or wok and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, until they’re golden.
- Add the chilli and stir-fry for another minute.
- Then add the coconut milk, fish sauce, and half the coriander and spring onions. Cook for another minute or 2.
- Garnish with the remaining coriander and spring onions and serve piping hot.
All in all a fabulous dish, though I felt it was missing a little zing (the chilli I used may have been a little mild) and some colour (red chilli garnish would have solved this).
One tiny ommission for a beginner chef like me – after the chicken is marinated, you’re supposed to brown the pieces in a little oil, but the recipe doesn’t say to separate the chicken from any left over marinade, and the juices prevented the chicken from browning. I’d suggest using a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to the wok, reserve the lime juice and then add it to the wok when adding the coconut milk.
A tip for calorie-counters: reduced fat coconut milk tastes just as good and eases the guilt (available from Woolworths).