I love a lamb tagine, so I'd like to make a vegetarian tagine that competes with it for the fullness of flavour. Here's my best one so far, making it deep and main-coursey by having large chunks of aubergine flavoured with cinnamon to take centre stage, and bitterness from fried lemon slices so that there's contrasting objects in there along with the standard tagine backing.
And yes you're meant to eat the lemon slices, rind and all. You don't have to eat the rind if you don't want, but it's doing the bitter/sour job we've got it for.
Serves 2, takes maybe an hour (including the stewing time).
In a deep pan that has a lid, heat up a big glug of olive oil, and fry the diced onion at a medium heat for 3-5 minutes to soften. Then add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and let it cook for a minute or two, then add the dates/prunes, 1 cup of veg stock, the honey, and a handful of almonds. Put the lid on, bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down to a simmer.
Chop the aubergine into big pieces, maybe 1 inch cubed. Don't go smaller than that. Put the aubergine in a bowl and sprinkle over a good dose of cinnamon, maybe 2 tbsp. Toss this around to coat the aubergines fairly evenly.
Get a big frying pan and put it on a hot heat. (No oil.) Add the aubergine pieces. Let them dry-fry for maybe 6 minutes, tossing them occasionally to turn over. A couple of minutes before they're done, slice the lemon into 0.5 cm slices, remove the seeds, and cut the slices in half (i.e. into semicircles), then add the lemon slices to the dry-fry pan. This gets them a little bit browned too. If you're increasing the quantities, you'll need to do the dry-frying in batches.
Put the aubergine and lemon into the stew pot. Add a good twist of black pepper, as well as the cumin and bay leaf. Stir around. Now put the lid back on and let this bubble gently for maybe 20 minutes minimum, 40 minutes maximum.
About ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, add a handful of chickpeas.
Then, just before serving: taste to check the sweetness, and decide whether to add a bit more honey. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, and stir. Then finally sprinkle some more sliced almonds over.