Sarah and I were rustling around in her pantry the other night, trying to find enough ingredients for some sort of dinner. She had sweet potatoes, chickpeas and cous cous – so as is usual when there are sweet potatoes lurking at the bottom of the box we decided to make a sweet potato tagine. This dinner really does come from nothing. It feels like it uses every spice in the cupboard, but the flavour that shines through is a beautiful earthy cinnamon. This time we served it with cous cous, but sometimes we have it with hunks of fried polenta to dip into the sauce.
The basis for the recipe comes from our friend Antonia who similarly made it from the contents of an empty pantry, at a beach house on the south coast of NSW. After a day of swimming and walking the hot track through sandy dunes to the beach, the tagine filled many hungry bellies. If you have a big enough pot, double the recipe and it will feed a long table of people. With some accoutrements – coriander, yoghurt, a salsa of minced lemon zest, or preserved lemons – the contents of an empty pantry can even look fancy.
Sweet Potato and Chickpea Tagine
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion halved and finely sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted then ground in a mortar and pestle
1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted then ground in a mortar and pestle
1 tsp toasted and crushed cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground tumeric
3 medium sized sweet potatoes chopped into large bite sized pieces
1 tin chickpeas or chickpeas soaked over night
1 bottle of passata
1 cup vegetable stock
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion until slightly transparent. Place all the spices in the pan and cook over a low heat until fragrant. Add the sweet potato and chickpeas and coat in your spicy onion mix. Place the entire bottle of passata in the saucepan and bring to the boil. Add one cup of hot stock and season to taste. Place a lid on the saucepan, slightly ajar so some steam can escape, turn the heat to medium, and cook until the sweet potato is tender. Make sure you stir occasionally so none sticks to the bottom of your pan. (As you can see we didn’t actually use a tagine, but by all means if you have one whip it out.)
Serve with cous cous, yoghurt, coriander and any other accoutrement you can rustle up.
Serves 6 or 4 very hungry.