Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mouthwatering Morocco

You might remember back in June I showed you how to make Moroccan Preserved Lemons. Well, I checked them this morning and they are ready to be used, so today's recipe includes this unique ingredient. I really enjoy Moroccan food for it's aromatic character, beautiful flavours and balanced use of sweetness and sourness. Today's dish has all of these things. It uses roasted spices, dried apricots, chilli and of course the lemony punch of the preserved lemons, to make a Chicken Tagine that can be a midweek dinner or a centerpiece for a full Moroccan style feast.
A Tagine gets its name from the conical earthenware pots used through North Africa to braise meat, grains and vegetables. The principle is that the meal is cooked slowly, and the moisture that collects in the lid runs back into the dish. This results in very tender meat and no loss of precious flavour. More recently, a Tagine has come to mean the dish itself - braised or stewed meat, vegetables and grains that may or may not actually be cooked in a Tagine. I just used a standard heavy based pot to cook my Tagine today.

Although my recipe includes chicken, you can easily adapt this to suit you. You can omit the meat altogether and add more vegetables (carrot, zucchini, eggplant for example) or you could use lamb or goat meat in place of the chicken. If you use lamb or goat, I would double the quoted cooking time. If you use vegetables alone, halve the cooking time. Also feel free to ramp up the chilli content if you like things spicy. I used both fresh chilli and Harissa (Moroccan chilli paste) in my dish. If you cannot buy Harissa where you are, substitute minced chilli or sambal olek. The flavour is different but it still works well. Serve the Tagine with couscous and warm flatbread to soak up all the delicious gravy. My recipe serves 4-6 and freezes extremely well if you want to save some for later.

A note about the preserved lemon - to prepare the presrved lemon, you need to remove all of the pulp and disgard it. You will only use the skin. With a sharp knife, cut off the pith close to the skin. Disgard this also. Wash the lemon skin well - it will be very salty. Then chop the lemon finely. Now it is ready to use.

Chicken Tagine

You will need: 1kg skinless chicken thighs cut into large chunks, 2 diced red onions, 1 diced red pepper, 3 cloves finely chopped garlic, 1/2 cup diced pumpkin, 1 tablespoon pitted black olives, 1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained, 1 large sliced red chilli, 2 teaspoons finely chopped preserved lemon, 300g halved dried apricots, olive oil, 1/2 cup plain flour, 1 tablespoon sweet paprika, 1-2 teaspoons Harissa (or minced chilli), 2 teaspoons honey, 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon corainder seeds, 6 cloves, 1 stick cinnamon, 1 litre chicken stock (or vegetable stock), 1/2 cup toasted skinless almonds, 1 bunch fresh coriander roughly chopped, 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint.

Method: First, toast your spices. In a dry pan combine the cloves, coriander seeds and peppercorns and toast them gently until they start to release their fragrance. When they are done, crush them in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Next, splash some olive oil into a heavy based pot and cook the red onion, peppers, garlic and pumpkin until the onion starts to brown a little. Add the spice mixture, along with the olives, fresh chilli, cinnamon stick, preserved lemon, and Harissa. Cook for another minute or two. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a plastic bag, combine the flour and paprika. Add the chicken and coat the pieces well in the flour mixture. Heat a frypan and add a generous splash of olive oil. Cook the chicken in batches until slightly golden on both sides.

Add the chicken, apricots,honey, chickpeas and stock to the spice/onion mixture. Combine and bring to the boil. Simmer gently uncovered (stirring occasionally) for about an hour. When ready to serve, taste for seasoning and stir through the fresh coriander and mint. Top with the toasted almonds.


1 comment:

  1. Wauw,,,that look amazing,,,gonna be so busy cooking next week!