I love North African style dishes. They are aromatic, full of exotic flavours and bursting with herbs and spices. Think aubergines, tomatoes, chickpeas, fresh herbs, fragrant spices, almonds, figs and dates. Best of all this type of cooking is one of the most healthy cuisines in the world. If you want to incorporate some of these flavours into your cooking, a good way to start is by learning to make a basic chermoula or harissa paste. For this recipe I am going to show you how to make a chermoula paste.
Chermoula is a marinade originating from North Africa and is traditionally made by blending garlic, herbs, spices, lemon juice and olive oil together. It is usually used to cook fish. However, I use it with aubergine and other vegetables. The good thing about it is that if you are cooking for others who eat fish, you could easily prepare this paste and use it for this recipe for yourself and to cook fish for your dinner companions.
First off, I admit that quinoa is not at all North African. You would more likely see couscous used. However, I like to use quinoa instead of couscous as it contains all of the essential amino acids that we need to obtain through our diets. It has a mild taste meaning that it can easily be used instead of couscous in this recipe. I try to avoid using couscous as it is wheat based and so contains gluten.
The tomato sauce is mild to offset the heat of the chermoula paste.
I sometimes eat the chermoula vegetable and quinoa with some tomatoe sauce or if I want something more substantial I might stuff red peppers with the chermoula mixture and serve it with the tomatoe sauce poured over.
For the chermoula paste
1 cup of fresh coriander.
1/2 cup of parsley
3 cloves of garlic
1 inch of grated ginger
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of paprika
1 tablespoon of cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon of chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon of pink mountain salt
For the quinoa and vegetables
1 cup of quinoa
For the tomato sauce
1 medium onion
3 cloves of garlic
Tin of plum tomatoes
250g cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper
2 x red peppers (optional)
Half the cherry tomatoes and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven at about 180 degrees / gas mark 4 for about 30 minutes.
Prepare the chermoula paste by putting all ingredients for the chermoula paste in a food processor and blending to a thick paste. If you don't have a food processor, you can use a pestle and mortar.
Chop the aubergine and courgette into small bite size pieces.
Place the chermoula paste in a saucepan and over a medium heat for about 60 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the aubgerine and courgette and toss them in the chermoula paste for about 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and place in the oven at about 180 degrees / gas mark 4 for about 20 minutes.
Prepare the quinoa by rinsing it well in water. I use a sieve as the holes in a colindar are too big and the quinoa falls through them. Place the rinsed quinoa in a saucepan with two cups of water and cook over a medium heat. The water should evaporate from the quinoa. This should take about 15 minutes or so. Stir the quinoa every so often to ensure it is not sticking to the end of the saucepan.
Next prepare the tomato sauce. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Chop your onion very finely. Add it to the saucepan and cook for about 3 minutes. Then add your crushed or grated garlic to the saucepan. Place a lid on the saucepan and turn down the heat a little. Allow the onion and garlic to cook for about 7 minutes. While they are cooking, blend your tin of plum tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Once the onion and garlic has cooked for the required time, add the blended tomatoes to the saucepan, season with salt and pepper and allow the sauce to cook for another 10 minutes or so.
When the aubergine and courgette are cooked and the water has evaporated off the quinoa (ensuring any excess water is drained off), mix them together. At this stage if you want to use this as a filling for stuffed peppers, cut your peppers in half and place on a baking tray in the oven for about 10 minutes. After ten minutes, take them out, fill each half with the quinoa mixture and place the stuffed peppers back on the baking tray for another 5 minutes.
Once the tomato sauce is finished cooking, add the cherry tomatoes to it.
To serve, pour the tomatoe sauce over the quinoa or over the stuffed peppers and sprinkle with coriander and toasted almonds.
And enjoy..... xxx