This simple vegetable stew straddles the cusp between autumn and winter, its layered spicing and citrus undertones delivering a bit of zing as well as a comforting glow.
You’ll need a jar of preserved lemons – or rather, you’ll need one preserved lemon. Buying a whole jar may seem extravagant, but you will quickly find a use for the others. Tiny pieces of the peel make a wonderful salt-sharp addition to grain salads and pilafs, dressings, stuffings and marinades, seafood dishes, as well as, naturally, North African tagines. Look for the small, round “beldi” variety.
1 pingpong ball-sized preserved lemon
200g cavolo nero
600g butternut squash, peeled and cut into roughly 2cm chunks
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 medium red onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
A big pinch of saffron threads
A pinch of crushed chilli flakes
400g tin of chopped plum tomatoes
Juice of an orange
500ml vegetable stock
2 x 400g tins butterbeans, drained and rinsed
2 handfuls of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Greek yoghurt, to serve
Preheat the oven to 200C /Fan 180C / Gas 6.
Cut the preserved lemon into quarters, then cut out and discard the pulp and pips. Slice the skin into thin strips and put to one side.
Strip the cavolo nero leaves from the tough stems. Tear the leaves into largish bite-size pieces and put to one side. Discard the stems.
Toss the chunks of squash with 2 tbsp of the oil and ½ tsp salt and spread on a baking tray. Place in the oven and roast for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through, until tinged with brown and just tender.
Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan. Stir in the onion and a scant 1 tsp salt and let it cook gently for about 6-7 minutes until soft, but not brown. Stir in the garlic, spices and sliced lemon peel and stir for a minute or so more.
Add the tomatoes, orange juice and stock, and a few grinds of pepper, then bring to a simmer and cook over a medium heat, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until thick and rich. Give it the odd stir and prod to help break up the pieces of tomato. Add a splash of water if it threatens to dry up.
Stir in the roast squash, butterbeans and cavolo nero leaves and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes more until the squash is soft and the leaves cooked.
Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then mix in most of the coriander. Pile into bowls, add a blob of Greek yoghurt to each one and scatter with a little more coriander. Finish with a trickle of olive oil.
Lucas Hollweg is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author and cook. A former Sunday Times journalist and cookery columnist, he writes for a wide range of food publications. His most recent book is Good Things to Eat.