Squash Lentil and Tofu Tagine

My friend McSwede is also dabbling in veganuary this year, so I decided it was only fair to invite her and the other members of Cake Club round for a tasty vegan dinner. As a group of ladies with certain partiality to lashings of butter and cream, I had to rack my brains for a tasty option that wasn’t ‘too vegan’….yet, at the same time, felt compelled to demonstrate my oft-stated belief that ‘tofu is great’ 🙂 Tofu is best paired with a tasty sauce, but I didn’t want to be super predictable and make a curry. Tagine seemed to fit the bill, so I consulted this Moroccan cookbook, gifted to me many years ago and bizarrely seldom used. This may be set to change!

I plumped for the ‘spiced lentil and pumpkin tagine’ recipe, and expanded it to feed five greedy hungry Cake Clubbers by increasing quantities and adding the tofu. The result was surprisingly delicious given the modest list of ingredients – one of those dishes that seems to be greater than the sum of its parts. To recreate it, you will need:

  • 1 butternut squash (mine weighed about 900g before peeling and de-seeding), cut into 3cm chunks
  • 1 cup dried brown or green lentils ( about 250ml)
  • 4 tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 heaped tsp paprika (I used smoked; the recipe didn’t specify)
  • 1 heaped tsp harissa paste
  • 4 tsp tomato purée
  • 3/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander, chopped (half to go in the tagine, half to garnish
  • salt and pepper
  • 250g firm tofu (NOT silken!), cut into bite size chunks
  • marinade for the tofu: 1tsp harissa, 1 tsp tomato purée, 2 tsp soy sauce

I started by marinading the tofu. The marinade is quite thick but that’s ok, it sticks well when you cook it. I also put the lentils on to cook according to the instructions on the packet – reduce the stated cooking time by 10 mins as they’ll also cook in the sauce.

Then I prepped the tomatoes. The method seemed a bit odd but worked really well. Just cut each tomato in half and remove the seeds. Then grate, flesh side down. This removes the flesh from the skin. (I absolutely love our new grater, with bowl attached. I bought it for The Husb for Christmas, he’s so lucky!)

I fried the onion in a slosh of olive oil until translucent, then added the garlic and spices. I gave it all a good stir and cooked for a couple of minutes before adding the tomatoes, tomato paste and harissa.

I then added the cooked lentils and the squash, along with the parsley and half the coriander, 1tsp salt and a good grind of black pepper. My mixture was a little dry, so I added around a cup of water at this stage. I think I added a bit more later as well – keep an eye on it.

The recipe then suggests simmering the tagine for 20mins (lid on) to cook the squash. Mine took a fair bit longer than this, perhaps because my squash was in large chunks. However, I think this was a good thing as the squash stayed in whole pieces and didn’t get too mushy.

While the tagine was simmering, I cooked my tofu. I heated a good glug of olive oil over a medium heat, and then carefully fried each piece on two sides. This really helps the tofu stay in whole pieces – if you don’t pre-fry, it tends to crumble. Also, for this dish it meant that the marinade stayed ‘attached’ to the tofu, if that makes any sense at all!!

Once the squash was tender, I stirred in the tofu. Done!

I actually made this a couple of days in advance. This often seems to help the flavour in spiced dishes – not sure why! I reheated it on the night, and served it with couscous and some of The Husb’s delicious sourdough bread. It went down pretty well!

Incidentally, to make a full ‘dinner party’ offering, I also made* two types of hummus (broccoli and beetroot) for nibbles beforehand and Anna** Jones’ banana, toffee and coconut cream pie for dessert. The former were outstanding. The latter was nice, if you accept that it doesn’t taste like real banoffee pie…..although I doubt we’ll have much difficulty demolishing the remainder

*spot the unemployed person with time on their hands

**Not sure if I’ve mentioned my extreme girl crush here??