Most dishes on the Holiday Table are not really vegetarian friendly even if it appears to be so. Marshmallows are a no no [ contains gelatin]. Of course anything with gelatin is out. Things cooked in chicken/ beef stock won't do and most vegetarians avoid eggs. Some cheeses are not vegetarian either. See what I mean. So I wanted to develop a recipe that would bypass all these pitfalls and practically be a meal, it might be the only thing a true vegetarian could eat at someone else's Holiday Table. Then I thought why not make it vegan too! I wanted to use seasonal vegetables with colors reflecting the earthy autumnal hues that we see everywhere during the holidays. Most importantly all guests, vegetarians and non should love the dish.If it can also be prepped a couple of days in advance to make it easy for the host to concentrate on the regular Holiday cooking, that would be a bonus.I have taken culinary license in calling this dish a Tagine, it is not cooked in the pot by that name but the flavors are based on a traditional Tagine preperation. —vegetarianirvana
Harissa [spice paste]
Kashmiri chillies [available at Indian stores, these chillies are very mild but give an intense red color, can substitute another chili pepper with similar characteristics]
cloves of garlic
teaspoons roasted and powdered coriander seeds
teaspoons roasted and powdered cumin seeds
teaspoon roasted and powdered caraway seeds
tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Lentils and vegetables
cup Pui/ french lentils[dark smaller type of lentil, it holds its shape better]
Soak the chillies and garlic in hot water for 15 minutes and then grind with all the spice powders to a somewhat smooth texture. Add a table spoon of soaking liquid. You can add salt to taste though this is optional. Add the olive oil to the paste and set aside. This is your Harissa paste.
Cook 1 cup Pui lentils according to packet directions and set aside.
Peel the veggies leaving a little bit of skin on them, except the carrots of course. Cut all veggies to a uniform size about 1" dice
Set up a steamer and steam all the veggies. Carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes take 9-10 minutes. The rest take 7-8 minutes. You can steam all the vegetables in a double tier steamer at the same time. The veggies should be a little undone in the center. Remove from steamer immediately and spread them out. At this stage, after the veggies have cooled you can store them in the fridge along with the Harisa paste for upto two days before proceeding to the next stage.
Heat a pan and add 1 tbs of oil and saute the onions for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook in a moderate flame till the tomatoes break down and you have a homogenous tomato, onion sauce. Add 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of Harissa paste and mix into the sauce. Add the 3 cups of steamed veggies. Add salt to taste. Gently work the gravy to coat all the veggies, and add the cinnamon powder. Put a lid on the pan and let the veggies cook in the gravy for about 5 minutes. If the gravy is drying out add some water or the soaking liquid from the chillies. The veggies are done when the spices and flavors have permeated the veggies. Check for salt and consistancy. Add water if you want it runnier. Remove veggies from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan add 1/2 cup of water and a 1/4 teaspoon of Harissa paste. Add the cooked lentils and salt to taste and let everything boil for a minute till the lentils are coated with a thin sauce.
Put the lentils on a serving dish, scoop out the center and arrange the veggies in it. Garmish and serve.