Things we really dig

Appreciate the autumn harvest by tucking into seasonal produce


By Ruth Joseph, September 28, 2010
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It is that special time of the year in the Joseph household when my husband Mervyn harvests his garden produce. Carrying my largest mixing bowl, he will return with vast piles of crisp, green runner beans, golden and green striped courgettes, marrows and an assortment of tomatoes. There will also be chillies and, this year, tiny aubergines, plus sacks of muddy potatoes.

On another journey with our granddaughters, the sweetest blackberries were picked with crisp Concord pears and a handful of Bramley apples.

So far this year I have made 12 jars of chutney with apples from a friend's trees plus our green tomatoes, a load of shlepped back Israeli spices and our chillies.

Some aubergines have been curried for Yomtov, to be served with those now-cleaned potatoes roasted in a little oil with garden rosemary and few home-grown shallots. The beans will be enjoyed as a side-dish, gently cooked with a little black pepper and salt.

The courgettes and marrows will be gently poached with the softer tomatoes and masses of herbs for a luscious supper dish.

Of course for our biblical ancestors, life depended on a good harvest. Those foods that were reaped from the fields would keep the population during the lean and barren times of winter.

It truly was a matter of life and death whether the harvest was successful and, naturally, if the harvest was not good then the population would be devastated and pray for a better year, while if it was a year of generous abundance there would be a huge thanksgiving celebration.

The festival of Succot signifies the autumn, the final pickings; the chance to rest and enjoy the season's labours. This was a time when people could, hopefully, feast and relish an abundant harvest.

It is fascinating to know that, in order for the harvest to be picked at its freshest, the farmers built themselves temporary booths, living out in the fields so that they could devote all their energies to the picking.

Then when they were sent out in the wilderness, they used their knowledge and rebuilt those booths. Yet again, this story reminds us of the fragility of our lives and how we are dependent upon each other and God to provide us with food.

And so to celebrate the harvest I would like to offer you an authentic Seven Vegetable Tagine taught to me by a lady in Fez last year - although I will not be copying her method of chopping the onions directly in her hand.

Seven Vegetable Tagine - for 6-8

Ingredients
● 2 large onions peeled and chopped
● 2 peeled and crushed cloves garlic
● Thumb-size freshly grated ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
● 1 dessertspoon olive oil – she used a ¼ glass!
● 1 teasp ground paprika
● 2 teasp ground cumin
● 2 teasp ground coriander
● Pinch black pepper and salt
● Pinch saffron
● Teasp ras el hanout
● 3 carrots, peeled cut into chunks
● 1 kg pumpkin peeled and cut into chunks
● 2 courgettes cut in chunks
● 4 potatoes cut into chunks
● 1 x 400g can tomatoes
● Either 400g bowl of fresh peas or approx 400g green beans
● ½ salted lemon cut into chunks or slivers
● 1–2 glasses vegetable stock
● 25g chopped fresh parsley
● 25g chopped fresh mint
● Tin of chickpeas and a handful of olives

Method
● Sweat onions and garlic gently in the oil. Add spices and when they are toasting add vegetables.
● Stir well.
● Top with tinned tomatoes, bouillon and herbs reserving a few for presentation.
● Simmer with lid on for 15 minutes or until vegetables are almost tender.
● Then add rest of ingredients.
● Sometimes it is necessary to add more stock.
● To serve with couscous, add 3 cups couscous to 500ml vegetable stock and fluff up when swollen.

    Last updated: 10:16am, September 28 2010