You see, I wanted to use my beloved preserved lemons in a more, for lack of a better word, normal way than I had to date. Don't get me wrong - I love the flavors in my Tunisian tuna tart and potato & harissa sandwich, but I thought it might be nice to let them do their thing in a more traditional way. In this dish, they are less of a star than they are an indispensable supporting player. In fact, none of the ingredients here stand out and scream for attention. It's more of an ensemble production.
It's very important that you don't just dump all of your spices into the pot at once. Instead, add the ingredients in stages, so as to create layers of flavor. It makes a huge difference.
Eggplant & Chick Pea Tagine-less Tagine
1 large onion, chopped
5-7 cloves garlic, minced
Blend of 1/2 tsp EACH ground coriander & ground cumin, plus a pinch of anise seed
1/4 tsp cinnamon, plus a pinch
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 large eggplant, peeled & chopped
2 cans chick peas, drained
a few saffron threads
2 bay leaves
2-3 heaping tbsp preserved lemon, chopped
5-6 canned plum tomatoes, chopped
large handful of currants
salt & pepper, to taste
Sprig of cilantro, for garnish
Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add 1/2 the garlic, 1/2 heaping tsp of the coriander, cumin, & anise mixture, the cinnamon, the ginger, and the cayenne. Saute a few more minutes. Add the eggplant, a pinch of salt & pepper, saute for another minute. Add the chickpeas and 1 tbsp of the preserved lemon, just enough water or broth to cover, a pinch more cinnamon, 1 more tsp of the coriander/cumin mixture, saffron, bay leaves, tomatoes, the rest of the garlic, and half the currants. Simmer, uncovered, until the eggplant is tender and some of the liquid has evaporated. Add another tbsp of preserved lemon and the rest of the currants. Simmer a few minutes more. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings accordingly - you'll definitely need some salt & pepper, and perhaps more lemon, depending on your taste. To most dishes, I'd add more cayenne, but here you want to use a light hand so it doesn't overpower the delicacy of the other spices. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes or so - you want anything you added at the end to incorporate into the stew.
I served mine with wheat berries and a garnish of cilantro. It's incredibly satisfying, vegan, and utterly guilt-free!