Moroccan-Style Pumpkin Tagine
Any Moroccan dish that is prepared in the traditional conical-shaped cooking vessel is called a tagine. So technically, if you don’t own a tagine and make this dish in a normal pot, then it should be called a stew.
But then again, no one is going to get upset if you go ahead and call your stew a tagine dish – in the end, tagine sounds much more Moroccan.
Cooking in a tagine is really cool. The idea is to use very little liquid in the preparation and cook over low heat for more than an hour – often up to 3-4 hours. Whatever you are cooking will release water during the cooking process, but instead of just vaporizing into the air, the steam rises to the top of the narrowed cover. The steam cools and distills back into the food below. The liquid continues this process during the entire course of cooking and creates an intensely flavored broth.
You can kind of replicate this method if you don’t have a tagine by just using a large pot and allowing plenty of room for the steam to rise to the cover. Just be sure to cook everything over a low temperature and allow enough time for the liquid to gather into a flavorsome broth.
You can apply this cooking method to just about anything. It works really well in creating authentic tasting Moroccan dishes because the heavy use of spices mixes right into the liquid and penetrates all the food. And you will definitely taste the difference.
This example of a winter tagine takes advantage of the pumpkin releasing liquid and melting into the broth to increase flavor and body. Make sure to keep the pumpkin slices large so you are left with some tasty chunks of winter squash. I like to use butternut squash for this dish because it is easy to slice and works well in holding its shape – mostly. You can also use Hokkaido pumpkins (or any other Asian-style pumpkin), but maybe consider roasting them a bit first.
One final note… Always try to incorporate an odd number of vegetables – and never more than 7 different types. Yes, the Moroccans are a bit superstitious.
Yield: makes about 6-8 servings
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