This past week I took a trip up to Matam (the North of Senegal) to say goodbye to my old home-stay family before I head back to the U.S. in May. It was wonderful to see my family again, and the villagers were happy to see me. It was a bittersweet couple of days. My family made me so much wonderful food and I got to hang out around the house and hold my Aunt’s newborn baby. However, the goodbyes were extra hard because I don’t know if I will ever see these people again, and they have no control over when they will see or hear from me again. My best friend from village tried to convince me to move to Senegal permanently. When I turned this down, she made me promise to take a few pounds of beans from her fields and a huge squash with me. As I was leaving, my family also made me take squash from their fields.
Thus, I showed up at our regional house full of squash, beans, and mixed emotions. Here I met Meredith, to whom I also have to say goodbye. She is finishing her service in Senegal next month and moving to Boston. Although I have hope of seeing her again stateside, it is hard to think we won’t be hanging out in Senegal anymore. As a goodbye present, she invented this recipe with the squash I brought from village.
This spicy, savory, Morrocan style stew is pre-cooked and then baked inside a squash It makes the entire house smell good, and is a great comfort food, exactly what you want to eat when faced with saying all these goodbyes.
1 large squash
1 med onion, chopped
3 medium to large carrots
1 head of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 med white sweet potato, chopped
2 small eggplants, cubed
1/4 heaping cup dried lentils
3 cups veggie broth
1/2 tsp paprika, divided
1/2 tsp cumin, divided
1/2 tsp turmeric, divided
1/2 tsp coriander, divided
1/4 tsp cinnamon, divided
a few shakes of black pepper
ground chili, to taste
Place the cubed eggplants in a colander and add lots of salt. Let them sit here and “sweat” while you brown the other vegetables. In the meantime, sautee the onions, carrots, garlic, and sweet potatoes, until almost soft (about 10 minutes). Stir in half of all the spices. When the veggies are almost soft, add the eggplant and cook until semi-translucent and the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. During this time add some more oil if vegetables start to stick, and be careful not to overcook the vegetables. Add a 32-oz can of tomatoes and some more salt. Let the tomatoes break down and add the remaining spices, about ten more minutes. Here I would probably also add a small spoonful of honey.
While the tagine is simmering, cook 1/4 cup of heaping lentils in 3 cups of veggie broth. When the lentils are just cooked, but not mushy and there is about 1 cup or a bit more of veggie broth left the lentils are done. Add this to the completely cooked stew above.
Also while the tagine cooks, prepare the squash. Cut the top of the squash until you have a hole to put the tagine in, and the top should fit back in this hole. Then scrape out all of the goo. Next, rub olive oil on the inside, outside, and on the tray.
Preheat the oven to 35o degrees. Ladle the stew into the prepared squash and put the squash lid on. Cook until the squash is soft (about 3 hours). To shorten the cook time, next time I will try this at 375 degrees. It would also take less time with a smaller squash.
Note: the overflow from the soup that falls out during baking would taste wonderful on some home-made bread.