Some years ago, when I was having to use a cramped student kitchen in a 15th-Century cottage in Cambridge, I came up with this recipe. After moving to Brussels a couple of years later, I tweaked it somewhat, to reflect the range of ingredients available in the local Moroccan shops (the only places that stayed open after 8 p.m.).
I’ve used orrechiette for this recipe, although any short pasta will work: penne rigate, fussili and gemelli all work very well. The sauce is totally vegan, so you could always choose a pasta that would reflect this. This dish shows both Arabic and Mexican influences, but I must warn you, it is rather spicy!
The following recipe should feed two people.
1 medium-sized courgette (if you can find white courgettes, these seem to be the best)
5 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1 red onion (diced)
a handful of parsley
half a teaspoon of cumin seeds (freshly-toasted and ground)
half a teaspoon of coriander seeds (freshly-toasted and ground)
half a carton of passata
half a small glass of white wine (you can also use any red that isn’t too tannic)
1 dried birdseye or ancho chilli (any small red chilli, except a Scotch Bonnet or Habanero)
a pinch of thyme (oregano also works)
half a vegetarian stock cube (it is generally worth buying the best-qaulity available)
1 teaspoon of chipotle in adobo (alternatively, could also just add a rehydrated chipotle, or some powder)
a couple of drops of balsamic vinegar
a couple of drops of extra virgin olive oil
sugar and salt to taste
I’ll leave the pasta portions up to you
Tarator (optional, to serve):
2-3 teaspoons of light tahini.
salt and black pepper (to taste)
1 clove of garlic (crushed)
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
lemon (to taste)
Once you have prepared the ingredients and cooked the pasta, shred the courgette(s), as finely as possible, on a grater. Then, grab it into handfuls and squeeze out all the juice (you could always retain this for other recipes), before chopping it as finely as possible.
Heat the pan, adding olive oil, making sure that it is hot, before you put in the onions. A minute or two later, add the cumin, coriander and the dried chilli (not the chipotle yet)
Once the onion had started to soften, add the thyme/oregano and just over half of the garlic. Stir it in and remove from the heat for a minute, to prevent the garlic from burning.
Return to heat, crumble-in the stock cube and add the courgette, stirring it as you do this.
After another minute, add about two-thirds of the parsley, followed shortly afterwards by just over half of the wine. Stir everything thoroughly and let it simmer for a minute or so.
Once you can see the courgettes starting to melt down slightly, you can add the passata. Don’t add too much, or you will RUIN EVERYTHING.
Shortly afterwards, you can add the rest of the garlic. Splash-in a drop of balsamic vinegar and maybe a pinch of sugar.
Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the courgettes cook down. You might want to add the extra virgin olive oil, at this point.
Taste the sauce. If you think it needs it (and I usually do), add the remainder of the parsley, followed by the rest of the wine and let this cook off for a minute or two, before adding the chipotle chilli. Reduce the heat and stir-in the pasta, a minute or two later.
Whilst this is cooling, it’s time to quickly whip-up the tarator:
Put the tahini paste in a bowl, add the salt and the black pepper, as well as the garlic. Stir thoroughly.
Then add the crushed garlic (the garlic is optional, but I certainly like it) and the olive oil. Stir again, before adding the lemon (don’t overdo it -you can add more, later!) and stirring that in too. Finally, add a small amount of COLD water. Stir thoroughly again, and adjust according to taste. You can now serve this with the pasta, as an alternative to Parmesan.