EATING OUR WAY THROUGH THE ZODIAC
We are constantly influenced by the movement of the celestial bodies through the Zodiac and their interactions with our personal horoscopes.
We can experience these progressions as changes in our schedules or routines, fluctuations in mood, vitality vs dis-ease. The passing of the Sun through the signs marks the seasons. Temperatures change as do the foods available to us. All of these things affect our relationship to food and food preparation. As with most matters in life, listening to our body’s needs and hearing the messages from the planets will help us adapt to these changes with less distress – Easily said from a highly mutable person, more challenging for the very fixed individual!
We have entered the sign and time of Sagittarius. This mutable sign will take us to winter’s doorstep and following some advice from Jupiter, will prepare us for the cold, dark days ahead.
When I think of Sagittarius, Jupiter and food, I see a Roman feast - a cornucopia of rich meats, cheeses, olives, sweet fruits and plenty of wine. A little too much may be Jupiter’s Achilles Heel.
So how do we satisfy this desire for excess in the most nutritious and supportive way?
We travel Sag’s arrow to a distant land of exotic spices, expansive fruits and slow cooked stews. We arrive in Morocco to dine on a sumptuous meal of Tagine.
Tagine is the name for a North African stew, as well as the name for the earthenware pot with a tall, conical lid that the stew is cooked in. This heavenly meal is rich with spices, olives, figs, lemon and traditionally some kind of meat and or chickpeas.
With this dish, we go on an adventure of the taste buds, we indulge in spices that stimulate activity in the liver and circulation of the blood (Jupiter’s domain) and we give fuel to our inner fire.
I am a cook that rarely follows a recipe and I ad-lib with what ingredients I have on hand, so feel free to experiment with this recipe. On that note, I do not own a tagine to cook this stew in, so I have created recipes for the stove top and the crock pot. I included a vegetarian version with chickpeas, and a meat version with lamb. Most of the ingredients are the same for both stews. I have noted the slight differences in the recipe. I have kept the ingredients true to Jupiter’s rule.
Stovetop or Crockpot ‘Tagine’
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp black pepper
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cardamom
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cayenne pepper
A pinch of saffron (about 25-30 threads) soak in a ¼ cup of warm water
3 cups Butternut squash diced into bite size pieces
1 medium zucchini diced into bite size pieces
*For vegetarian version - 2 cups eggplant diced into bite size pieces
1 large onion diced
2 large garlic cloves
2 inch piece of fresh ginger peeled
1 inch piece of fresh turmeric peeled
1 -2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 14oz can of diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock
*For vegetarian version – I 540ml can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
*For vegetarian version - Zest of one lemon
*For lamb version – 1 ½ lbs of boneless lamb diced into bite size pieces
6 dried figs
6 dried apricots
1 cup pitted kalamata olives or green olives coarsely chopped
*Optional: 1 heaping teaspoon of honey (recommended for the vegetarian version)
1 cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup lightly toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds
½ cup pomegranate seeds
For both recipes: Put first 9 spice ingredients in skillet or pan and heat on medium-low heat until fragrant. If using whole spices instead of ground, put in a spice grinder (I use a coffee grinder) or mortar and pestle and grind to a powder. Set aside spices.
Peel and dice squash.
Dice onion and finely chop garlic, ginger and turmeric.
For the vegetarian recipe: Slice and dice eggplant and toss in salt and set in a colander or strainer. Let sit for at least 20 minutes. This will release some of the bitter compounds of the eggplant. After 20 minutes or so, rinse off the salt.
Method for the lamb tagine: I cooked the lamb tagine in the crock pot as this slow cooking method is ideal for ‘fall apart’ tender meat dishes.
To the crock pot add the tomatoes and vegetable stock and turn on crock pot to the high until simmering. In a separate pan, melt one tablespoon of coconut oil on medium-high heat and sear the diced lamb, just to brown the meat. Do not overcrowd the pot. You can sear the lamb in batches, adding a little coconut oil as needed. Remove the lamb from the pot and set aside. In the same pan, sauté onions turning down the heat to medium until onions are fragrant and softened. Add garlic, ginger, turmeric, turning down the heat to medium-low. Add the spice mixture and continue to heat for about 3 or 4 minutes.
Add onion mixture, spices and saffron with the soaking water to the crock pot and when the mixture is coming to a simmer, add the seared lamb. Turn the setting on the crock pot to low and simmer on low heat for 2 hours. Add figs, apricots and olives and continue to simmer on low for at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.
Serve as a stew on its own or on top of couscous or rice. Garnish with parsley, pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.
Method for the vegetarian version - In a large pot melt one tablespoon of coconut oil and add chopped onions. Sauté on medium heat until onions soften. Add garlic, ginger and turmeric and turn down heat to not burn the garlic. Add the spice mixture and continue to sauté on medium-low heat for about 3 or 4 minutes.
Add can of diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, chickpeas, squash, zucchini, eggplant, saffron with the soaking water and lemon zest. Simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes then add figs, apricot and olives and continue to simmer on low for another hour. It can simmer for longer.
Just before serving add one teaspoon of honey. Stir to combine.
Serve on its own as a stew or on top of couscous or rice. Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, pumpkin seeds and a few pomegranate seeds.
*A key ingredient that I didn’t have on hand is fermented or preserved lemon. If you do come across this culinary delight, finely chop a few pieces of the lemon and stir in the stew near the end of cooking or add on top as a garnish.