Chickpea tagine with Moroccan quinoa pilaf

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This dish was inspired by a fish tagine I tried a few months ago. I was really taken by the combination of flavours: it's quite sweet from the dried fruit, heavy with spices and brightened by the lemon. I didn't think the 'fishiness' worked in it though, so I turned it into a chickpea tagine with much better results.

The tagine is paired here with a simple Moroccan quinoa pilaf (recipe below), but you could also serve with cous cous (if you can have gluten), rice or a flat bread instead.

The tagine keeps well in the fridge; I made a large batch of it last weekend and ate it for lunch for several days thereafter.

Chickpea tagine

Serves 8

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked, cooked and drained (or 2 400g tins of chickpeas, rinsed and drained)
  • spices (see below)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium sized onions, about 1/2 kg, grated (if you have a food processor with grater attachment this is the perfect job for it, if not you may prefer to just finely chop the onions instead - grating onions by hand is not fun)
  • 1 bulb garlic, cloves separated, peeled and finely chopped or crushed
  • 1 kg tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped* (or 800g tinned chopped tomatoes)
  • 175g turkish dried apricots, halved
  • 85g (1/2 cup) flaked almonds, lightly toasted 
  • 50g (1/3 cup) sultanas
  • 1 teaspoon saffron stems
  • 2 cups (500ml) tomato juice
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or agave nectar or sugar for a vegan alternative)
  • rind of 1 lemon, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 8 large lettuce leaves (or about 4 large handfuls mixed greens)

*The Former Chef blog provides a good set of instructions on How to Peel and Seed Tomatoes.


  • 2 tablespoons ras el hanout
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground tumeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

**My spice rack is fairly well stocked. Don't feel like you have to go out and spend a small fortune on different spices though, just to make this dish - you can always make it with a smaller selection. The ras el hanout I've been using is one my sister bought in Morroco, and despite careful rationing I'm going to have to omit that soon, unless I can source some locally (perhaps online?). As a suggestion for simplifying the spice mix, maybe try paprika, choose one or two of coriander, cumin and tumeric, and add some cinnamon or nutmeg for warmth. With the exception of some occasional ginger bread, I despise ginger, and I also dislike hot/spicy food, but if that's not you then ground ginger and cayenne pepper are the sorts of spices which would also work well in this dish.

Preheat oven to 170˚C (340F). Combine all spices in a small bowl. Add half the spices to the cooked chickpeas and set aside.

Place the dried apricots in a small bowl and add enough hot water to barely cover them. Place the saffron in another small bowl or cup and add 1/4 cup cold water.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat (if and ONLY IF you have a CAST IRON casserole dish, use this instead of the frying pan. If your casserole dish is ceramic, you will need it later but DO NOT put it on the stove. Yes, possibly an excessive use of caps lock here, but I learned this the hard way.)

Add onion to the frying pan and sauté until soft, but not brown. Add the garlic and spices and cook for another minute or two. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, dried apricots and their soaking water, flaked almonds, sultanas, saffron in its soaking water, tomato juice, vegetable stock and honey.

Bring to the boil, then transfer to a casserole dish (unless you were already using a cast iron dish). Bake for one hour.

Fry lemon rind in 1 tablespoon olive oil for a few minutes, stopping cooking if the rind starts to brown.

Serve the tagine atop a lettuce leaf, and sprinkle with the cooked lemon rind and chopped coriander to garnish.

Moroccan quinoa pilaf

Serves 6-8 as a side

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped (I used dates and currants recently; dried apricots also work well but I omit when serving with the chickpea tagine as the tagine already has a lot of apricots in it. If using currants, sultanas, raisins or cranberries, keep these separate from the rest of the fruit.)
  • 1/2 cup nuts, coarsely chopped and toasted (I like a mix of almonds, pine nuts and pistachios, but you could also try macadamias, walnuts, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts or any of your other favourite nuts.)
  • 3 teaspoons spices: a similar mix to that used in the tagine. I typically add a sprinkling of each, using a bit less nutmeg and pepper than everything else.

Heat the canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat, then add quinoa and toast for a few minutes. Stir through the spices.

Remove saucepan from the heat for a few minutes so that it cools slightly. Add 2 1/2 cups water and return to the stove. If you add the water without letting the saucepan cool first I find the water and quinoa splatter everywhere, making quite the mess and losing some of your quinoa to the stove/wall/floor/your top or hair. If using currants, sultanas, raisins or cranberries, add these now. Reserve the rest of the dried fruit for later.

Return saucepan to the stove. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa tender, 15-20 minutes. Add a little more water during cooking if needed. You can tell the quinoa is cooked because the little rings around the outside of the seed will start to separate from the central part.

Stir through remaining dried fruit. Pilaf can be prepared up to here in advance. Sprinkle with nuts just before serving, so that the nuts remain nice and crunchy.