This Moroccan chickpea tagine with apricots, toasted almonds and deep, warm spices is an easy stew to prepare, family-friendly, and deeply satisfying.
Let’s try something different today, through this delicious Moroccan tagine full of exotic flavors from North Africa. As you might know, Moroccan cuisine takes an important part of the French culture both on the private and on the public sphere. When I lived in France, I actually used to go to Moroccan restaurants from time to time, enjoying the sweet and savory flavors combined together with some warm spices. In Paris, I was lucky enough to live in the 5th arrondissement, very close to the Grand Mosque of Paris. Oh, how much I loved going there for tea time once in a while!
With years abroad, I kind of forgot about Moroccan food and I think the last time I went to a Moroccan restaurant was in Grenada in Spain, in… 2012! You don’t really find them in Sweden, neither in the US, or at least in Chicago. But the other day, I really fancied Moroccan food and tried to find a good restaurant here. I did some research, asked locals or to be more exact asked to Moroccans of Chicago for recommendations. The thing is that none of them was able to recommend a single very good Moroccan restaurant in the city. There is a niche available here, guys!
Slightly disappointed – but not defeated – I went my own way and created a tagine recipe for you, based on my sweet memories of delicious Moroccan dishes, with inspiration from traditional existing recipes. Last but not least, I tried to make it vegetarian, as I like to develop plant-based recipes. It ended up to be vegan, even better! Also, if you are an expert in Moroccan cuisine, please consider my recipe with indulgence as I do not pretend to share your family recipe, I just add my own little twist here, as I often do!
One thing I love in Moroccan dishes, and in particular in tagines is the use of dried fruits in the stew, such as dates or apricots, together with various nuts, and especially almonds. In the stew, dried fruits get a moist texture again while simmering in the pot, which pairs perfectly with the other ingredients. Note that I used dried apricots here, but you could replace them with dates if you would like to, or combine them both together. Medjool dates are the best to me and the ones I recommend. Add a final nutty texture and you get it all. I paired apricots with slivered almonds, that I first toasted in a frying pan on medium-high heat with no oil. Just make sure you stir often and watch out carefully so they don’t burn (it’s ready in seconds).
Because I wanted my tagine to be vegetarian, I used chickpeas instead of meat. I could have cooked them in the pot but opted for a quick and lazy option instead: a can of ready-to-use chickpeas. And it did the trick very well! The only thing I would advise you is to make sure you add them at the very end, as they are already cooked. Let them simmer for a few minutes with the other ingredients and spices to make sure they are fully coated with fragrant flavors, and the stew is ready!
In most tagine recipes, vegetables are cooked directly in the pot while I decided here to roast them separately in the oven. This is a pure matter of choice as I personally prefer my root vegetables roasted rather than cooked in a pot. I find them much more flavorful and I like their slightly crispy texture too. I used tricolor carrots together with potatoes, but you could basically use any root vegetable of your choice instead. Just bring your own little touch and make the recipe yours. A stew is always very forgiving, and that’s exactly what we like about it.
The couscous comes here as a simple side and it is totally optional to a tagine that can be enjoyed by itself. Personally I enjoy my tagine served with couscous. Note that the couscous comes as a simple side and is NOT gluten-free. If you want to serve your tagine with a gluten-free side, simply replace couscous with quinoa. I prepared mine in a little fancy way, with warm spices and a pinch of cayenne pepper, that enhances the tagine flavors. Top with the roasted veggies and you get a nourishing and fragrant plant-based dish, naturally gluten-free. Bon appétit!
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pinch saffron, freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 12 dried apricots, pitted and cut in half
- 1 medium lemon, juice
- 2 Tablespoons agave syrup*
- 1 small handful fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1¼ cup (300 ml) vegetable stock
- 1 can 15 oz (425g) chickpeas, drained
- 6 Tablespoons slivered almonds, slightly toasted
- Salt and pepper
- 1.1 lb (500g) mixed carrots (orange, purple, white), peeled and roughly chopped
- 2-3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups (400g) uncooked couscous
- 2 teaspoons ground curry
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
- 2 cups (50 cl) water
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 Tablespoons (15g) butter
- Heat olive oil in a large pot, and once hot sauté the onions until soft, about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic, spices, and sauté for one more minute, then add apricots, lemon juice, agave (or honey if non vegan)*, and half of the cilantro. Pour the stock over and simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes, until almost completely absorbed.
- Add the chickpeas, toasted slivered almonds, and season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped vegetables with olive oil until fully coated. Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the vegetable to the baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring from time to time to make sure they are roasted on all sides.
- In a medium bowl, mix couscous with spices.
- In a medium saucepan, bring water, salt, and butter to a boil. Add couscous, stirring quickly. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand for 4-5 minutes, and fluff with a fork before serving.
- Serve the vegetarian tagine with roasted vegetables and a side of couscous, and top with extra chopped cilantro if desired.
** Note that the couscous is not gluten-free. If you want to serve your tagine with a gluten-free side, simply use quinoa instead of couscous.