06 January 2011

Spiced lentil & pumpkin tagine followed by spiced yoghurt & fruit

There is something very special about old friends. You know those friends who have known you since before 'things' started to change with your body and you were still considered cute and adorable by your parents. Those friends who stood by you while you fell in love for the first time with the cutest boy in your grade and they would go and ask him if he would go 'out' with you; and most importantly, they would tell him he was 'dropped' for you one week later. Those friends who have seen you laugh, fail, succeed, win, lose, cry, break-down, love, hate, and yet, they still remain your friend and love you.

I have one of those old, dear friends, who unfortunately lives in Germany - and has for the last 14 years - but who remains a true and loyal friend despite the distance. I am lucky she visits often and is here at the moment - haven't we put the weather on for her with flooding everywhere in Queensland - and what a treat it is to give her a real hug and not just one over the telephone or via the virtual world.

It would be remiss of me to not treat her to a hearty meal at my place during her stay given I've started a blog about my cooking experiments and adventures. So, the other night, I managed to drag her away from her twin sister and family to spend a night with me and my beloved. As she is a vegetarian I decided to visit Morocco, again - to follow on from the ras el hanout in the Christmas hampers - and cook her a spiced lentil and pumpkin tagine.

First, I must share that one of the most exciting things for me and therefore for, you, who has to deal with my special photographic skills, is Mel is studying photography in Deutschland. So for this blog, and for a few upcoming ones, you will be treated to her fine work. Thank you, Mel!

Spiced lentil and pumpkin tagine
From a little taste of morocco

Spiced lentil and pumpkin tagine with
home made flat bread (photo by Mel)

275 g brown lentils (or use a tin and you can miss the first step in the cooking directions)
2 tomatoes (you could substitute for a tin of diced tomatoes for a wetter dish)
600 g pumpkin (or butternut squash for our European friends)
3 tbls olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or 1 tsp harissa (I used the harissa as it has an incredible flavour to spice up this dish)
1 tsp paprika
3 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbls finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbls chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves

Pick over the lentils and discard any damaged lentils and any stones. Put the lentils in a sieve and rinse under cold running water. Tip into a saucepan and add 1 litre cold water. Bring to the boil, skim the surface if necessary, then cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, halve the tomatoes crossways and squeeze out the seeds. Coarsely grate the tomatoes into a bowl down to the skin, discarding the skin. Set the grated tomato aside. Peel and seed the pumpkin and cut into 3 cm dice. Set aside.

Heath the oil in a large saucepan over low heat, add the onion and cook until softened. Add the garlic, cook for a few seconds, then stir in the cumin turmeric and cayenne pepper or harissa. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the paprika, grated tomato, tomato paste, sugar, half of the parsley and coriander. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add lentils and the prepared pumpkin, stir well then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the pumkin and lentils are tender. Adjust the seasoning and transfer to serving bowls. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and coriander leave. I served this with fresh flat breads that I baked while making the tagine.

Spiced yoghurt with a middle eastern fruit salad
From the Marie Claire Zest cookbook.

I think this is a winning dessert, especially if you would like something a little lighter for your guests but still something to amaze them. I've also used fresh fruit instead of the middle easter fruit salad with the spiced yoghurt. Both work equally well.

Spiced Yoghurt
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
2 cloves
2 vanilla beans, split lengthways
2 cardamom pods, split lengthways (I added 4 because I love cardamom)
250 ml cream
1 tbls sugar
300 g Greek-style yoghurt

Put the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, vanilla beans, cardamom pods and cream into a small saucepan over a low heat. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain, then str in the sugar before allowing to cool. Fold the spiced cream through the yoghurt and serve over a fruit salad.

The spices in the cream ready for cooking.
Mel said it smelt like Christmas. (Photo by Mel)

Middle Eastern fruit salad
70 g dried figs
70 g dried apricots
70 g pitted prunes
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp rose-water
(I also added some dried cranberries I had left over in the cupboard)

Cut the dried fruit into bite-sized pieces and place in a small bowl. Place the sugar, 250 ml (1 cup) of water and the orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium hear, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Remove from the heat and stir in the rose-water. Pour the liquid over the dried fruit and allow to soak for several hours.

Place fruit salad in glasses, top with the spiced yogurt. I like to grate fresh nutmeg over the yoghurt to add another delightful fragrance and look to the mix.

Spiced yogurt with middle eastern fruit salad
(Photo by Mel)

The one thing I did learn during this cooking experience is I am pathetic at talking and cooking at the same time. I think we ended up eating by about 8.30pm. Prior to this I had to kick Mel out of the kitchen so I could finish the meal in order to prevent us from eating by the year 2012.


  1. I know just the type of friend you mean. How lovely to enjoy her in person for a bit. Mels' photos were gorgeous. What a delicious and warming looking meal. It looks perfect for todays rainy weather. Yum!

  2. Your meal sounds divine. I would love to be served that !!!