Fava Bean Tagine - may 18, 2010

I love the way that rolls off my tongue - fava bean tagine. I bet if I made it into a little song and dance, while I served dinner, my daughter would repeat it all day long - just to annoy me. But would she eat it? Well, yes, under duress. I spoon fed her all the fava beans (which she enjoys raw, but not cooked) and sweet potatoes, in exchange for a bowl of super sugar clifford crisps, or some other fake-healthy organic sugar cereal. The chicken and cous-cous she ate on her own. My son refused the vegetables outright, but that is nothing unusual.

The tagine wasn't mostly favas, they didn't even make up a large percentage of the meal, but I did use a whole bag from last week's CSA delivery. Not counting what's in the garden, I"m all out. 

In this tagine, I replaced the usual green peas that my friend Khadesia taught me were OK to throw in at the last minute. She wouldn't use chard, or spinach. No kale or stir-fry greens. Carrots, sure. Sweet potatoes, of course. Turnips, maybe. But something green?  Only peas. I guess I could serve it with a salad, but I prefer to think of a tagine as a one-pot meal, excepting the cous-cous.

In my garden, favas are the one thing (besides mildew) that will always grow.  When I planted my garden in mid-January, only the favas managed to get going before the weather warmed up. They are great for the soil (if you cut and compost them before they flower, some say) and are great to eat, unless you have inherited an enzyme defect from your parents. Even if you have, Wikipedia tells me that most people with the disorder don't react to fava beans. 

There is also quite a bit of protein packed into them - according to Nutrition Data's website, a one cup  serving has 187 calories, 1 gram of fat, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of fiber and 13 grams of protein. Also lots of vitamin A, folate and choline (whatever that is). That is for boiled beans, so I'm sure the fat changes when they're cooked in olive oil, but they start out good.  When you compare that to the green peas, its about the same with less protein.  

So I guess those brits with their grey skies and mushy peas were on to something. I have to say that I'm pretty impressed that I can grow 13 grams of protein per cup in my backyard without doing much of anything. But now I see that a cup of roast chicken has 43 grams of protein. So maybe its not such a good deal after all. But I'm definitely more sure than I was yesterday that a meat serving doesn't need to be very large.


Khadesia's Chicken Tagine:

1 chicken, cut into parts

4 small sweet potatoes or 2 large

1/2 cup peas (or snap peas or fava beans - shelled, boiled briefly and skinned)

1 or 2 slices preserved lemon

1/2 bunch cilantro

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 largish pinches saffron threads

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon colorant (safran)

salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a tagine - be careful not to turn the heat up too high (I use a medium low setting) because you can crack the tagine .  The temperature is about right before you hear a lot of sizzling. Sprinkle a little salt on the chicken, then arrange it in a single layer in the tagine. Add the preserved lemon to the chicken - on top is fine. Sprinkle half the spices (1 pinch saffron, 1/2 t coriander, turmeric, paprika and colorant) on top of the chicken, salt and pepper it and add half the cilantro. Put the lid on the tagine and cook over  for about twenty minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, wash, peel and slice the sweet potatoes into long slices (I usually cut them in half, then half the halves longways).  Wash the peas. If you're using favas, snap them out of the pods, then drop the beans into boiling water for about thirty seconds. Drain them and pour them into a bowl of ice water, then skin them. Its easiest to pinch the pale green skin on the stem end, then gently squeeze the bean to get it out.  When twenty minutes have passed, flip the chicken over, then sprinkle the remainder of the spices and cilantro on top. Lay the sweet potatoes on top of the chicken.  Cover and cook for another twenty to thirty minutes.  For the last few minutes, add the peas or favas.


1 cup cous-cous

2 cups boiling water

1 tablespoon olive oil


Bring the water to a boil in a teakettle or separate pot and keep it simmering.  Heat the oil in a large skillet (or low sided pot), then add the cous-cous and stir it around for a couple minutes until it browns just a little bit. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt and remove the skillet from heat.  Pour in the water, it will bubble up and make some noise.  Quickly stir it one time, then cover the skillet with a lid and let it sit for ten minutes. If it seems too dry, then add another cup of water in the same manner. Fluff the cous-cous before serving.


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