Coconut Pumpkin Dal

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Dal, mostly refers to various kinds of soup, originally from South Asia, prepared with pulses(lentils, peas, beans). I’m super-fond of lentils especially; they’re high in fiber, full of good protein, low in calories, easy to cook, cheap, substantial and delicious. There are a number of different kinds of lentils: dark, green and red, which all have their own special texture when cooked. Red lentils tend to lose their shape when cooked, which is perfect for wonderfully thick and mushy dishes. I’ll use red lentils and pumpkin as the base in this recipe, which makes the Dal rich and a bit naturally sweet. I’ll mix several spices to give it an exotic fragrant flavor, also add coconut cream to balance the smoothness. This is a lovely dish that goes well with rice or flat-bread, accompanied by sides of stir-fried greens or simple fresh salad. I’ll stir-fry some yummy seasoned tofu cubes along with some kale and fresh carrot. In the end, sprinkle some roasted sesame and herbs to garnish. As I always suggested, just grab things that you have. You don’t have kale? Chinese greens will be alright too. I totally like this “made from scratch” kind of cooking style, casual, creative and fun! Well, let’s start.
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Ingredients
(serves 5)
200g red lentils, soaked overnight
2 medium sized onions, roughly chopped
200g pumpkins, in chunks
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Small chunk(about 1 clove of garlic size) of ginger, finely chopped
2 small sized tomatoes, in chunks
1 can coconut cream
2tsp curry powder
1tsp turmeric
1tsp coriander seeds
1stp cumin seeds
a small handful of curry leaves
salt and pepper, water and oil

FOR SIDE DISH:
Tofu, chopped in cubes, seasoned with curry powder, garlic, salt and sesame oil
chopped greens and grated carrot
sesame and coriander to garnish

Methods:
1. Bring the lentils in a pot with enough water to the boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and leave to cook gently for 15 minutes until the lentils are softened. Drain and put aside.
2. Set a frying pan on medium heat, add oil, stir-fry the prepared tofu until golden color, put the crispy tofu aside. Keep stir-frying the greens, simply season with salt, put aside also when finish.
3. Get a pot, add some oil and put on medium heat, gently sautee the onion, garlic and ginger. Once the garlic is golden, mix in the pumpkins and tomatoes. Put all the spices in, as well as salt and pepper, and stir fry for another few minutes.
4. When the pot is getting dry, pour in the coconut cream and another can of water, also the cooked lentils. Give them a good stir, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the pumpkins become completely soft. Check once or twice in between. Add more water if necessary. They should have the consistency of porridge. Season to taste, then serve on rice, with side dish along, topped with sesame and coriander.

Chickpea Shukshuka

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It’s almost a one pot dish again! All the ingredients are insanely easy to prepare, and it’s so fun to poke some holes in the sauce for the poached eggs. I add chickpeas to make it more rich and comforting, also because they are good source of protein and fiber. You can use chickpea in cans for convenience, or soak them overnight and cook for 25 minutes for more deliciousness. You can also skip the chickpeas and use other veggies such as mushrooms and celery instead. I season it with cumin, paprika and chili powder to give a smoky and spicy flavor. It would be ideal to bake the eggs in the oven for the last 10 minutes, but my 10-inched pan is too large to be put in, so I just cover it with a lid, which turns out great as well.

Shakshuka is a perfect dish for sharing with friends, a hearty yet healthy one suitable for all day meals! Serve with toasted bread, over rice, or pasta whichever you want.
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Ingredients
(serves 4)
1 can of chickpeas, or 150g dry chickpeas soaked overnight and cooked in water for 25 minutes until soft
3 medium sized tomatoes, diced, or 1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
1 medium sized green pepper, deseeded and diced
2 large garlic gloves, finely chopped
4 eggs
pinch of cumin, paprika and chili powder
olive oil, salt and pepper
green herbs for garnishing, cheese for extra taste

Methods:
1. Add olive oil on a big pan over medium heat, sauté the onion, green pepper and garlic for 5 minutes until soft and fragrant.
2. Add chopped tomatoes, cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper, taste and adjust as needed. Stir well, bring to a simmer and leave it on the medium heat for another 3 minutes.
3. Add cooked chickpeas and stir to combine well. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes to allow the flavors develop. Stir several times in between.
4. Use a spoon to poke a hole in the sauce and crack one egg in. Poke more for more eggs. Turn to low heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until the eggs are set. Reduce or increase the time if you want the eggs be less cooked or the other way.
5. Turn off the heat, add some pieces of cheese for an extra taste, sprinkle some herbs for garnishing. Share with joy when it’s warm, have fun!
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Home Made Buffalo Chicken Wings

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Later on, I started craving my new love in Boxing Cat in Shanghai, and for a few years, their buffalo chicken wings were definitely unbeatable. Served with blue cheese sauce, they were perfectly spicy and sour at the same time. I could wash them down so quickly in no time, but you know what, since big Gary passed away, their recipe must have gone with him, and now their wings are a big disappointment. The batter is now too thin and not crispy enough and the sauce is weak. Then, last winter, I was in Amsterdam, and to escape the snow and the wind, I decided to stop by this Irish bar I was just passing by, and there, I had the best buffalo chicken wings in years. Everything was so perfect, the way it should be, and with a glass of mulled wine, I was no longer cold.

Well, since it’s so hard to have some nice wings, I thought, why not make my own? This thought kept coming to me, but I was too lazy to make them. Recently, however, I was inspired by an American friend of mine, and after some consulting, here I am, enjoying my first home made buffalo chicken wings. They are actually better than I could have imagined. Now I’m sharing my secret recipe with you, and I hope you like them as much as I do.
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Ingredients
For Chicken Wings:
2 cups of flour (whole wheat or gluten – free)
¼ tsp of cumin
¼ cup of corn starch
½ tsp of salt
½ tsp of onion powder
½ tsp of pepper
2 tsps of paprika
1 tsp of chili powder
2 pound of chicken breast – diced into small pieces
1 cup of milk (almond works great)
1 egg
Canola oil for frying

For the Wing Sauce:
2 tablespoons of butter – melted
1 cup of hot sauce (franks)
For Blue Cheese Sauce:
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons milk
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Methods:
Make The Blue Cheese Dip
In a bowl, combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic, and lemon juice. Add in the milk, one tablespoon at a time until reaching desired consistency. Stir in the blue cheese and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Make The Chicken Wings
1. Heat 2 -3 inches of canola oil in a stock pot or skillet.
2. In one bowl mix – flour, cumin, corn starch, salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder together.
3.  In another bowl whisk the egg and milk together.
4.  Dip each chicken into wet mixture, dry mixture, wet mixture again, and then dry mixture again.
5.  Fry 5 – 9 bites at a time (takes a couple minutes or until golden brown) – place on paper towels so the grease is absorbed.
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Make The Wing Sauce
As chicken fries, combine the hot sauce and butter in a small bowl. Microwave sauce for 20 to 30 seconds or just until the butter is melted, then stir to combine. You can also use a small saucepan for this step. Just combine the hot sauce and butter in the saucepan over low heat and stir until butter is melted and ingredients are blended.
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Spring Pho

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Spring is on the way again. In Chinese language, there’s a special phrase called “倒春寒” (late spring coldness) which means an unexpected sudden temperature drop in the spring. This Pho is perfect for those cold days, when you need some warm savory food, meanwhile still can enjoy loads of freshness from the evergreen spring.
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Pho is a classic Vietnamese soup dish. A typical Pho includes rice noodles in broth, a combination of raw and cooked vegetables, fresh herbs, and beef strips. The broth for a traditional pho usually involves several kinds of meats and hours of simmering in order to bring out a rich meaty flavour. In this recipe, I will make a doable vegetarian version for a weekday meal by simplifying ingredients.

To make the broth, I’ll use onions, shiitaki mushrooms and coriander stem, together with ginger and star anise. Pho is highly customizable, you can assemble your own bowls with your favourite add-ins. Since it’s spring time, I’ll throw in bamboo shoots, carrot, beansprouts and tofu, then stuff the bowl with lettuce, coriander, basil leaves, and complete with a generous drizzle of lime juice. Enjoy this colourful bowl of pure goodness in the spring!
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Ingredients:
(serves 2)
For the broth:
1 large onion, peeled and halved
8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
nub of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 star anise
small bunch of coriander, stem and leaves separated

For the Pho:
200g dry rice noodles (or 400g fresh rice noodles)
200g firm tofu, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped in strips
several lettuce leaves
handful of Thai basil
handful of beansprouts
1 lime, quartered
red and green chili
sesame oil and salt to taste

Methods:
1. place all the ingredients for the broth in a pot with 1L water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain broth, and return to pot. Leave the mushrooms and discard the other solids.
2. add in sesame oil and salt in the broth to taste. Put in bamboo shoots and tofu, bring to a boil, set aside.
3. cook rice noodles in boiling water until soft, drain and rinse under cold water. Divide into 2 large bowls. Top with lettuce, mushrooms, tofu, fresh carrots and beansprouts, ladle broth over. Serve with chili, coriander, basil, and lime wedges on the side.

Rice Pork Wrap

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The Duanwu Festival or, “Dragon Boat Festival,” occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese Lunar calendar, giving rise to the alternative name, “Double Fifth.” This year it lands on May 30th. Traditionally we celebrate this festival by eating zongzi, which are large rice wraps, drinking realgar wine, and racing dragon boats. The best-known story holds that the festival commemorates the death of poet Qu Yuan (c. 340 BC – 278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu.  Today we will teach you how make zongzi.

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INGREDIENTS

( serves 5-6 people, about 12-14 zongzi )
30-40 bamboo or reed leaves
粽叶zòng yè
2 jin glutinous rice
糯米 nuò mĭ
1½ jin mixed pork
夹心肉 jiá xīn ròu
2 teaspoons salt
盐 yán
2-3tablespoons soy sauce
酱油 jiàng yóu
1 tablespoon shochu
烧酒 shāo jiŭ
20 (40cm) lengths of string
线 xiàn
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METHOD
1. Zongzi prep takes a long time. First there are the leaves. They need to be soaked in water for at least 24 hours prior to use. Only when the leaves are ready should you begin preparing the pork filling and rice.
2. Cut the pork into 2cm x 3cm cubes. Put the cubes into a bowl, add shochu, stir and mix well, cover it and leave it to soak for 30 minutes. After the soaking period, pour out the extra liquid and add enough soy sauce to cover all the pork. Let the pork marinate for 4-5 hours. Stir occasionally.
3. Put all the rice into a huge bowl, add the salt and 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce, stir well and set aside for 30 minutes to let the sauce soak into the rice.
4. When everything is ready, it’s time to wrap them. Take 2-3 leaves, fold the leaves as illustrated, make it look like a pocket.
5. After wrapping them all, it’s time to cook. If you use a pressure cooker, just put in all the zongzi and a lot of water till they’re totally covered. Close the cooker and cook them till the pressure cooker starts screaming. It’s OK. Let it scream for another half an hour. Then turn down the fire a bit and cook for another half an hour. Remove from the flame and leave them sit for 30 minutes.
6. Finally it’s time to try the tasty zongzi. You can keep the rest in the freezer. It normally takes about 30 minutes to cook the frozen ones, however, the longer they’ve been cooked the tastier they taste!
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Classic Pesto

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Pine nuts – these small edible seeds of pine trees, are a splendid source of plant derived nutrients, essential minerals, and “heart friendly” monounsaturated fatty acids that help benefit in reducing cholesterol levels in the blood. They are often used in different cuisines, to add a nutty taste and creamy texture.
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Together with basil, this classic pesto is bursting with fresh herbal flavour. It’s super easy to make and goes well with almost everything! Pesto is great when tossed with pasta, spread on bread/sandwich/pancake, used as a sauce for salad or Pizza, or even as a dip for veggies and chips!

 

This is a classic recipe for making pesto. Though it’s certainly delicious, this is not the only way. Feel happy to add more ingredients or even switch some to make your own version of pesto! Some more recommendation for the extra ingredients are: parsley, spinach, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, sun-dried tomatoes… Bottom line: greens + nuts + cheese + olive oil = awesomeness, literally, you can’t go wrong. Be creative and have fun!
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INGREDIENTS
2 big bunches(6cups, gently packed) of fresh basil
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Lemon juice, optional

METHOD
1. Toast the pine nuts in a clean pan (without anything even oil), shake the pan and let them “dance” consistently. When they are lightly roasted(not golden colour yet), move the pine nuts out of the pan.
2. Get your food processor/blender ready. Blend the basil with pine nuts, garlic and half of Parmesan cheese. Stream in oil to make the machine run smoothly.
3. Add the remaining cheese, season to perfection with salt and pepper. Keep adding a bit more salt or oil, blend until you are happy with the taste and consistency.
4. Add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end to give it a little twang!

One tip for keeping the pesto from turning brown in the jar (if you want to store them in the fridge): always keep a layer of olive oil on top of pesto after using. This seals out the air and prevents oxidation.

Mexican-inspired Quinoa Salad

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A colorful Mexican style salad should stimulate your appetite in the hot season! This quinoa salad is also packed with other goodies: black beans, sweet potato, cherry tomatoes and avocado. I spiced it a little bit with pickled onions and chilies (or go for jalapeño to make it more Mexican spicy). I made a green dressing with half avocado, coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice, which turned out pretty freshly creamy. You can also use tomato salsa, or sour cream instead. Or, wanna make your salad more lighter yet still flavorful? Don’t waste the thick liquid from the pickled chilies!

Ingredients
( serves 2-3)
* 1 cup (120g) dry quinoa, rinsed
* 1 can (425g) black beans, rinsed
(or 150g dry beans, pre-soaked and cook in water until soft)
* 1 medium sized sweet potato, washed and cut in small dices
* 2 avocados, peeled and sliced
* 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
* 1 lemon
* a handful of coriander
* several slices of onion
* 2 small chilies, chopped into rings
* a garlic clove, peeled and chopped
* cumin, olive oil, salt and pepper
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Methods
1. The way to cook quinoa is basically the same as rice. The easiest method is to cook it in a rice-cooker. Bring two cups of water to the boil to one cup of quinoa.
2. Pickle the chilies and onions in lemon (half) juice with salt.
3. Place a pan on medium heat, give a nice splash of olive oil, put in all the cooked black beans, season with cumin, salt and pepper. Fry for 3-4 minutes, stir several times in between in case the beans get burned. Set the beans aside.
4. Add some more oil in the pan, when heated, put in the sweet potatoes and let them fry on medium-low heat for 5 minutes or more, until the surface turns golden. Set aside.
5. Put half avocado flesh, a small handful of coriander, a big squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt in a blender, season to taste.
6. Time for assembly! Arrange the quinoa on the bottom of a plate, top with black beans, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, avocado and pickles. Garnish with coriander leaves. Dressing is on the side, what are we waiting for?

Fruit Chia Seed Pudding

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This fruit Chia Seed Pudding, which is easy and fun to prepare, cool summer-looking, insanely yummy and healthy, can be a meal to start the day, or keep them in the fridge as dessert. By the way, they are seriously in low calorie.

Chia seed are originally from Mexico and several Central American countries. They are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, and calcium. They can absorb 10 times their weight in liquid when soaked. While soaking, there will be a gelatin-like coating being developed, surrounding the seed, and turn anything they’re added to into a magical pudding.

This recipe requires only 6 ingredients: fruit, chia seed, milk, honey, cinnamon powder, peanut butter. And only chia seed is unsubstitutable! You can surely make your own version such like: kiwi + chia seed + soya milk + sugar (or sugar-free) + vanilla/cocao + nuts. All you need is 20 minutes prep time, then put them into fridge to chill for overnight or at least 2 hours.
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Ingredients
(serves 3, 200ml each)
Mango/Pitaya
60g chia seed
300ml milk
20g honey
1 tsp cinnamon powder
4 spoons of peanut butter(slightly salted is fine)

Methods
1. Mix the milk, honey, cinnamon, and 1 spoon of peanut butter in a big bowl, add in the chia seed and mix again, until no more chia seed stick together, put aside for 15 minutes.
2. Peel the fruits, cut into small dices, leave some for the topping, mash the rest into puree separately.
3. Prepare 3 glasses/jars, scoop the puree into the glass as the first layer, chia seed mixing as the second layer. Repeat again until the glass is full. Scoop one spoon of peanut butter into each glass. Place the fruit cubes on the top. Let them chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Enjoy the breeze!
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Osaka Style Okonomiyaki

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According to the menus in Japanese okonomiyaki restaurants, I would say the most popular extra fillings are seafood such as shrimps and octopus, pork belly, and cheese. There are mainly two different styles of cooking okonomiyaki, one from Osaka and the other from Hiroshima. Osaka has been called “kitchen of the nation” for centuries, it is known for its inexpensive and abundant food culture. Today I’m gonna introduce the classic and simple Osaka style okonomiyaki.

First of all, let’s make a batter. Besides the obligatory ingredients(cabbage, egg, flour), I added in onions, leeks and baking powder, seasoned with soy sauce. It can be a little complicated if we really want to, by adding more ingredients such as grated yam, tempura scraps, or seasoning with Japanese dashi. About topping and garnishing, I strongly recommend to use the okonomi sauce, together with Japanese Mayonnaise. I’m not a fan of sauces in bottles normally, but when it comes to okonomiyaki, I just can’t say no. Feel free to put on bonito fish flakes if you like your okonomiyaki taste fishy. I finished topping with loads of dried seaweed and chopped spring onions, which gives every bite freshness and it looks gorgeous. Okay, shall we start?
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Ingredients:
(makes 2 okonomiyaki)
For the batter:
200g cabbage, thinly shredded
50g (a quarter of medium sized) onion, chopped
50g (15cm stalk) leek, chopped
2 eggs
100 plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp oil
salt to taste

For the topping:
okonomi sauce
kewpie mayonnaise
dried seaweed powderspring onions, chopped

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Methods:
1. Prepare a large bowl, mix all the ingredients for the batter, it shouldn’t be too thick or too watery in the end. Add more flour or water to adjust.
2. Heat a thin layer of oil in a frying pan on a medium-low heat, pour the mixture into the pan, gently press it with a spatula to make a stable and round shape. Fry one side for about 5 minutes. Check the bottom, when the color turns golden brown, use the spatula to flip over and fry the other side for another 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
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3. Brush the surface with okonomi sauce, sprinkle dried seaweed powder, top with lots of spring onions, drizzle mayonnaise and okonomi sauce again. Itadakimasu (let’s eat ) !
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Winter Tagine

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Tagine is Morocco’s best-known dish: a slow-cooked stew in a large clay pot with a conical lid. This design allows the steam that evaporates from the food to drip down back into themselves, so to retain its juices.

Although tagine literally means this kind of clay pot, we don’t have to use a tagine pot to cook this tagine dish. With a few tricks, a regular clay pot or just a pot will bring us a pretty close result. The vegetables are tender(slow-cook), yet chunky(chop big), absorb the essences of the exotic spices mixed with cumin, coriander and turmeric, develop a balanced taste between sweet (dried apricots or raisins) and a little spicy (chili or harissa), hit the taste-buds with a fresh twist of lemon and parsley.

Again, you can use almost any kind of vegetables in this dish. My combination with pumpkin and sweet potato make my version a little sweet. They can be replaced by zucchini, eggplant or any other things you prefer. Serve the tagine as the Moroccans do – over couscous, or like me – with flat-bread to dip in the rich sauce.
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INGREDIENTS
(serves 2)
1 onion, 1 sweet potato, 1 red bell paprika (all medium sized), big chunk of pumpkin and radish, all roughly chopped
half stalk leek, cut into 2-3 pieces
half cup(100g) of dried chickpeas, cooked
3 garlic cloves, a 1cm chunk ginger, chopped
0.5L veggie stock
lemon and parsley
10 salted olives
5 dried apricots, sliced
1 tspn cumin powder
half tspn (each) coriander, chili and turmeric powder
salt and pepper, olive oil

Optional:
Greek yogurt, nuts, couscous/rice/bread
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METHODS
1. Heat olive oil in a clay pot on medium heat, sauté the onion for several minutes until soft. Add garlic, ginger and all the other powder spices, give a quick stir.
2. Add pumpkin, sweet potato, radish, paprika and leek, squeeze in half of a lemon juice, stir around for a few minutes before the veggies turning brown. Add the olives, apricots and cooked chickpeas, pour in the stock until the veggies are almost covered. Season with salt and pepper. Turn on low heat, put the lid on. Let it slow-cook for at least 30 minutes. Stir gently 1-2 times in between.
3. Turn off the heat. The vegetables are still in good shapes, but getting nicely tender and we don’t want to crush them. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and lemon zest, serve the tagine with Greek yogurt over couscous.
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