Those playing at home will remember that Helen and I recently enjoyed an amazing time exploring Morocco. One of the things we fell in love with was the food. The ability to flavour bomb in one dish over a myriad of heat sources captured our imaginations. At one of our stops in Fes we visited a pottery coop with an amazing range of tagines, we couldn’t resist buying on. We actually had it custom fired and then shipped home. Ours is about 30cm diameter with Arabic Script artwork decorating it, it came accompanied by 2 smaller condiment servers and a beautiful coloured serving platter.
Well when you have such great gear to cook with you need to find the perfect recipe. What follows is what I came up with for our first cook. The original recipe didn’t feature the preserved lemons, but we think they are a wonderful addition to the dish.
So here is the recipe with a few pictures from along the journey.
Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Preserved Lemon and Almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon black pepper
1¼ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons plus ¼ cup olive oil
1 (3-lb) chicken, cut into 6 pieces, wings and backbone discarded
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium red onion, halved, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 fresh cilantro
5 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1½ cups water
2 tablespoons mild honey
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
½ cup dried Turkish apricots, separated into halves
⅓ cup whole blanched almonds
Optional: 3 segments preserved lemon
Stir together ground cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat well. I did cheat a little here, we brought some Ras el Hanout back from Morocco with us, so I used this instead.
Heat butter and 1 tablespoon oil in base of tagine (or in skillet), uncovered, over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then brown half of chicken, skin sides down, turning over once, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Brown remaining chicken in same manner, adding any spice mixture left in bowl.
Add onion and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt to tagine and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Dice the preserved lemon and mix through the chicken. Tie cilantro and parsley into a bundle with kitchen string and add to tagine along with ½ cup water, chicken, and any juices accumulated on plate. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.
While chicken cooks, bring honey, remaining cup water, cinnamon stick, and apricots to a boil in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until apricots are very tender (add more water if necessary). Once apricots are tender, simmer until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 10 to 15 minutes.
While apricots cook, heat remaining ¼ cup oil in a small skillet over moderate heat and cook almonds, stirring occasionally, until just golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
Ten minutes before chicken is done, add apricot mixture to tagine. Discard herbs and cinnamon stick, then serve chicken sprinkled with almonds on top
Very tasty it was too, served with a little pearl couscous and topped with fresh chilli and coriander. Definitely a dish we’ll do again.