Warm in side and out: Chicken tagine

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While I have a lot to learn regarding the finer points of Middle Eastern Cookery, I am definitely inspired to try more recipes in that style after making this warming, satisfying dish. It was not to hard to make and was full of interesting, complex flavours that seemed to nourish us deeply at the end of a big day. The recipe is originally from the Women’s Weekly Slow Cooker book – here I have included some of the variations I made while I was cooking it at home. The olives were our addition – I had used them in the past for another tagine recipe and remembered how well they worked. And they did again! I would probably add 100g to the sauce while it simmers next time and then serve with another 100g that are still ‘fresh’ from the jar.

On another note – this dish was my first time using saffron for its flavour and colouring in a dish. Knowing only a very little about it beyond a few details of its very expensive production method, I think I would like to do some more investigations its use and history in both food and textiles – so stay tuned!

Ingredients:
8 chicken thighs
1 tbsp olive oil
2 brown onions
400g can diced tomatoes (or several chopped tomatoes and a tbsp of tomato paste)
125mL (1/2 cup) chicken stock
165g (1 cup) dried apricots
1 cinnamon stick (1 tsp of ground dried cinnamon worked fine too!)
Roughly chopped pistachio kernels, to serve
Fresh coriander sprigs, to serve
Sicilian green olives, to serve
Steamed cous cous to serve (we used wholemeal pearl cous cous)

Chermoula ~
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh continental parsley
1 long fresh red chilli, halved, deseeded, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
large pinch of saffron threads
1 tbsp cumin seeds (1-2 generous tsp of ground cumin was my successful substitute here)
1 lemon, rind and juice

1. The chermoula mix is prepared as a marinade mix for the chicken pieces. The fresh herbs, chilli, garlic are mixed with the dried herbs in a glass bowl. The chicken thighs then need to be let soak up all those flavours for at least 2 hours.
2. Ideally this would be prepared a tagine, the Moroccan cooking vessel this dish is named after, however a large frypan will produce a tasty result too!
3. Heat the oil in your chosen piece of crockery or pan and cook the chicken in batches till all pieces have been browned and have a golden crust.
4. Remove chicken and sauté the onion in the same pan till soft.
5. Add the tomato, stock, apricots and cinnamon. Increase the heat till the mixture is simmering and then add the chicken, nestling it in the thick sauce in tidy chicken-thigh bundles.
6. Cover the pan and allow the dish to cook for about 25 minutes or thereabouts – by this time the chicken should be cooked right through.
7. Remove the lid and allow the dish to continue to cook for another 15s or so till the sauce thickens.
8. Serve with cous cous and vegetables (we chose broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potato) and garnish with more coriander, the olives and pistachio.
9. Enjoy this delight to the senses!

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