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!

Spiced, filled capsicums

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My mother in law said that the capsicums were a good price (I have so much to learn) so I thought I would have a go at doing some sort of stuffed, Middle Eastern-esque vegetable dish. I was a bit worried but it was well received and so here it is!

Ingredients:
5-6 smallish capsicums
3 cups cooked cous cous (which we cooked in vegetable stock)
2 onions
1/2 eggplant
olive oil for sauteing
75g pine nuts
100g currents
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons garlic (from a jar)
2 teaspoons sumac
2 teaspoons Moroccan Seasoning
Parmesan to sprinkle

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C, line a baking dish with baking paper.
2. Cook the cous cous as per instructions on packet. Ours was really quite moist – I was worried but it worked!
2. Dice onion and slice eggplant, saute in a wok or frying pan till onion is clear and eggplant is silky.
4. Add pine nuts, currents and seasoning to the pan.
5. Turn down the heat and add the cous cous, combine all ingredients. Turn heat off.
6. Prepare capsicums by removing stalks, seeds and pale inner flesh. Level bottoms so they sit up during cooking (this almost worked!).
7. Grate cheese and set aside.
8. Fill capsicums with the cous cous mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan. Bake till capsicums are soft and cheese is golden, at least an hour.
9. Serve with a green salad and enjoy!

Tabouli together

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Tabouli (traditionally tabbouleh) was always a ‘special’ salad in our family long before I knew anything about multicultural food. My ahead-of-their-time-grandparents always enjoyed it and it was often part of big extended family spreads. We always used the recipe in Jennifer Rowe’s Commonsense International Cookerybook, although often bigger batches and with lots of adjustment ‘to taste’! Its taken on another special role in the last few years, as I have observed the Lord’s Supper with church and biblestudy groups, sharing flatbread and lamb Jewish-style  … it represents the ‘bitter herbs’ in the original Passover and is a delicious addition to the more traditional aspects of this symbolic meal. I hope you enjoy this version!

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons of bourghul (cracked/crushed wheat)
5 medium tomatoes
1 onion (or 3-4 spring onions or shallots, depending on what you have)
1 bunch of parsley
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3-4 stalks of mint leaves
Cracked black pepper to taste

Optional:
A sprinkling of dried basil and/or oregano

Method:
1. Place the bourghul in a bowl, cover with cold water and set aside. It needs to soak for as long as possible to soften, at least 1 hour if using ‘cracked wheat’ rather than traditional bourghul.
2. Finely chop the parsley and mint and dice the tomatoes.
3. Mix the tomatoes with the herbs. Ensure you like the ratio of green to red, I like probably slightly more red than green.
4. Juice the lemon and mix with olive oil, salt and pepper.
5. Dress the salad, adjust seasonings (lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste).
6. Add in the bourghul and mix through.
7. Serve with other delicious things like Lebanese bread, hummus and lamb! Yum!

Note: the batch pictured used about 1kg of tomatoes and a very generous bunch of parsley from our garden. The dressing was probably doubled!