Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Sometimes I get the question if I have a good recipe for Moroccan tagine. But what do we mean by tagine, the pot or the dish? I usually use the word when I talk about the pot. Nowadays the word tagine is used for both the terracotta conical pot as well as the food that’s served in it. Historically the nomads in North Africa used the tagine pot as a “portable cooking vessel”, allowing them to prepare food on a charcoal fire while moving around.

Moroccan Tagine Tajine

The traditional tagine consists of two parts: a round bottom unit that is flat with low sides and a cone- or dome-shaped top that serves as a lid during cooking. The lid is designed to return all condensation to the dish. That way less liquid is needed and food cooks slowly until completely tender. Tagine is traditionally cooked over hot large bricks of charcoal. More convenient methods of cooking with a tagine nowadays are in an oven or on a gas or electric stove top. Make sure you use the lowest setting when using the stove, just enough to keep it simmering gently. Resist the urge to increase the heat or you may damage your tagine or scorch the food. I always cook my tagine on my gas stove and use a heat diffuser to evenly distribute the heat. A heat diffuser is a round utensil placed between the tagine and the flame.

Moroccan Tagine heat diffuser

Be careful as many ceramic tagines are purely meant as decorative serving dishes. You will need to make sure you can also use yours for cooking. Also, there are people who advise you to soak your it overnight before using it. The soaking is supposed to make it less susceptible to thermal shock. I never soak my tagine before using it simply because I was never taught to do so. My tagines are glazed so I think water would not penetrate the terra cotta anyway. One thing I do know is that you always hand wash your tagine and never put it in the dishwasher.

So, if I had to choose a favourite tagine recipe, it would most definitely be my mums Moroccan chicken tagine with dried prunes. Believe me………..nothing beats homecooked Berber tagine. My mum used to make us all kinds of tagine dishes (lamb, beef, kofta, vegetables), but her Moroccan chicken tagine with dried prunes was our favourite.

Moroccan Tagine Tajine

I remember we would gather around the dining table with my parents and my siblings with one tagine in the middle. Everyone got a piece of khobz (Moroccan bread) to eat the tagine, no cutlery needed. We used the bread for scooping out bites using just our fingers. The trick is to only use your first three fingers cupped together. Use these fingers in a scooping up motion, helping to get the food onto the bread. Then you can use your thumb for putting the food into your mouth and to avoid licking your fingers.

Licking your fingers is very impolite because everybody is eating from the same serving dish (the tagine). Another no go is to reach for a bite on the other side of the tagine, you only eat from the part closest to you (the Berber word for that part is ‘lili’). If you want the last prune and it’s not in your ‘lili’ you can always ask the ‘owner’, but you never reach for it yourself. As long as we are talking rules, don’t use your left hand when eating tagine as that is the hand you (should) use in the bathroom for wiping certain body parts.

Maybe you want to stop reading after the previous paragraph: there are many people who can’t imagine themselves eating with their hands. Don’t worry, you can always use cutlery if you are not comfortable eating with your hands. I remember people coming over to our house and my mum would just fix them a plate and give them a fork and a knife if they did not want to eat with their hands. I also remember that lots of those people eventually wanted to try to use the bread instead of the fork and knife, just because they were curious if they could manage.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

Moroccan Tagine Tajine

5 from 6 votes
Maroccan Chicken Tagine
Servings: 4 people
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 1 large red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • ½ tsp salt, or more to taste
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp raz-el-hanout
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 300 ml water (approximately)
  • 250 gr little potatoes
  • 1 small carrot, sliced in circles
  • 150 gr dried prunes
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in stripes
  • 1 large tomato, sliced in rings
  • 1 large red onion, sliced in rings
  • One hand full of peas (fresh or frozen)
  • Chopped coriander for garnish
Instructions
  1. Put the tagine on the stove on medium heat. I like to use a diffuser to evenly distribute the heat over the bottom of the tagine. A diffuser is a round utensil placed between the tagine and the flame (see above). Coat the bottom of the tagine with the 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the finely chopped onion to the tagine and fry until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Arrange the chicken in the tagine and cook it for 8 minutes turning the meat occasionally to lightly brown it.

  2. Add the spices, salt, and tomato puree and keep turning the meat until it’s completely coated. Arrange the chicken flat on the bottom of the tagine, leaving the rim free. Add enough of the water so it doesn’t overflow and keep the rest for later. Let the water come to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt if necessary. If at any point throughout cooking it looks like there is not enough liquid in the saucepan, add in a few tablespoons of water.

  3. Now you add the vegetables carefully on top of the meat, fully concealing the meat. I always use the same order. First I add the potatoes and the carrots as close to the liquid as possible. Then I put the dried prunes in between the potatoes. The stripes of bell peppers go on top of them and then you carefully add the tomato rings and onion rings. It will look like a lot of vegetables, but it will be fine. The peas go last and they go everywhere they want to go. There is no way of orchestrating them. I finish with a sprinkling of salt and pepper because the vegetables are not touching the water enough to be seasoned by it.

  4. Cover with the tagine lid and leave the heat low. Leave to simmer gently for 2 hours. Try not to disturb the tagine other than checking the level of the liquids occasionally and adding a little water when necessary.

  5. After 2 hours take the tagine of the heat and let it cool down for 10 minutes. When you are ready to serve, remove the lid and garnish with cilantro (or parsley if you prefer) and serve with bread.

  6. If you don’t have a tagine you can also make this recipe in a large deep-sided pan with a lid.

Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad

Have you ever seen the movie ‘The Pineapple Express’ where Seth Rogen is driving in his car and says: ‘Couscous: the food so nice they named it twice’. Being a Berber Moroccan myself who is brought up eating couscous like the Italians eat pasta I can only agree with Seth on this. Couscous is delicious, convenient and very versatile and I make sure I always have it in my pantry, ready to be turned into a salad or served with a fragrant brothy stew. It’s a great vehicle for all sorts of flavour combinations.

Couscous is a traditional dish of the Berbers who actually call it ‘Seksu’ which means ‘well rolled’ or ‘rounded’ in Berber. The more common name ‘couscous’ comes from the Arabic language. For years, couscous-preparing knowledge was passed on from mother to daughter in the Berber society. Knowing how to prepare couscous was an important element of a young woman’s dowry. So my mum did her duty and taught me how to prepare couscous the proper way 🙂 . Little did she know that her daughter would have such a busy job, that she rarely would have the time to cook the couscous the proper way. Instant couscous is just too convenient, especially when you come home and dinner needs to be on the table in an hour, max.

Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad

Couscous is no longer an important meal just for Moroccans, Algerians, and Tunisians. Nowadays it’s enjoyed all over the world. When I say couscous, I mean the traditional small granules that look like grains, but are actually tiny ground pasta made from semolina (a type of wheat). Couscous is made by rubbing semolina between wet hands until minuscule little balls are formed. The couscous is then dried and later steamed in a couscoussier (unless of course  you use the instant version). A couscoussier is a traditional double-chambered food steamer. It is typically made of two interlocking pots made of metal. The bottom part, which is the larger one, holds water or broth used to produce steam. The smaller pot, which is designed to be placed on top of the first, has a lid, and a perforated bottom. It holds the couscous in place while allowing the steam to enter and reach the couscous.

couscoussier steaming couscous

So, when I say couscous I don’t mean giant couscous. Who ever thought of that name? There’s no such thing as giant couscous. Don’t get me wrong, there is something which kind of looks like couscous, but is much bigger than the normal couscous, but I would never call it giant couscous or pearl couscous or Israeli couscous, simply because it’s not couscous. These products are not as similar as their names lead you to believe. Let me give you some of the differences: whereas couscous is traditionally dried before it’s cooked, the big ‘couscous’ (which is actually called p’titim) is toasted in the oven, giving it a slight toasty flavour. Where the real couscous is prepared by steaming, p’titim is boiled, like pasta or prepared in a way risotto is also prepared.

Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad

Having said that……………….I love p’titim, we just need to stop calling it couscous. I read an article saying that experts in Algeria are working on a project to include North African couscous on UNESCO’s world heritage list. That’s the other extreme in my opinion, but I understand why they would want to do that.

Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

5 from 1 vote
Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad
Servings: 4 people
Ingredients
For the chicken
  • 120 ml honey
  • 2 tbs rose harissa
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 8-10 (1.2kg) free-range chicken drumsticks
For the salad
  • 4 tbsp olive oil (2 for frying and 2 for the 'dressing')
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 spring onions
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 300 g P’titim (or pearl couscous for the ignorant 😉 , read my blogpost)
  • 400 g chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 15 g parsley, chopped
  • 15 g mint, chopped
  • 120 g pomegranate seeds
  • 100 g almonds, toasted and chopped
Instructions
  1. Add the honey, rose harissa, crushed garlic, lemon zest and half the lemon juice into a large bowl. Season with a 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper and stir to combine. Add the chicken and turn to coat and let it marinate for at least 2 hours.

  2. Preheat oven to 220°C when ready to cook. Line a baking tray with baking paper and transfer the chicken to the baking tray. Roast the chicken for 35-45 minutes or until cooked through and golden, basting every 15 minutes with the mixture from the bowl.

  3. Cook the p’titim according to packet instructions (mine took 10 minutes), then drain in a colander, cool under cold running water and let it drain thoroughly.

  4. Fry the onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and spring onion and fry them for another 3 minutes. Then add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and season well with 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper. Fry for one more minute and then add the chickpeas also for one more minute. Take off the heat and add the other half of the lemon juice and the chopped parsley and mint (save a little bit of the herbs for garnish). Tip everything in a shallow salad bowl that will also fit the cooked p’titim. Add the p’titim to the salad bowl when it’s completely drained. Peel the pomegranate and toast the almonds and add them to the bowl together with 2 tbsp of olive oil and combine until everything is mixed.

  5. Arrange the p’titim salad on a large platter, top with drumsticks and scatter with extra herbs.

‘Fried’ Buttermilk Chicken Thighs

I was in the mood for good comfort food and this recipe for oven ‘fried’ chicken fitted the bill perfectly. In this recipe Ottolenghi gives the traditional fried chicken a skinny makeover by ‘frying’ the chicken in the oven. Fried-chicken-purists will be horrified reading this recipe until they try it. Then they will find out that this skinnier little sister of the fried chicken is not so bad after all. Yes, it’s skinnier, easier and also very important…………there’s no greasy mess to clean up afterwards and you don’t run the risk of losing an eye to hot oil.

With this recipe Ottolenghi managed to achieve a crispy golden exterior but at the same time the meat is tender and juicy because you soak the chicken overnight (maybe even two nights) in a buttermilk bath. The chicken is so moist and juicy that it falls off the bone. So, succulent and moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. What more do you want? Before I encountered this recipe I didn’t make fried chicken often, because it’s not the healthiest thing to eat. The first time I made this ‘skinny’ version for my family they asked me to make it again the next day and because it’s much healthier than the regular fried chicken I did.

If you read this and I convinced you to try it then you will be disappointed once you read it needs to marinate for quite some time. I can already see the question coming if you can skip the marinating or marinade it for a shorter time. I recommend you marinade the chicken for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight (or two). Patience is a big virtue here. Not only does the buttermilk marinade keep the chicken super juicy once it gets fried, the long marinade also allows the chicken to really get infused with flavour. My advice would be not to skimp on the marinating time.

                          

Remember you can always increase or diminish the amount of spices if the taste of the crust doesn’t suit you. I like to add 1/2 tbs paprika extra in the marinade and sprinkle another half on the chicken right before it goes into the oven. Do the sprinkling with your fingers so you can evenly distribute the paprika over the skin.

The original recipe uses 3 tbs of panko crumbs. I use more panko and just go by eye and stop when I think it’s enough.  The panko makes for the crusty exterior, but in order to get a good crunch you need to set your oven higher for the last 10-15 minutes. If the skin is not brown after 10-15 min you can always use your broiler to help with this last step. When under the broiler you have to watch your chicken closely so it doesn’t burn.

So if you like your fried chicken but don’t want the calories that go with it: this should be your go to recipe. You know calories right? Calories are tiny little creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night when you go to sleep.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

‘Fried’ Buttermilk Chicken Thighs

Source: ‘Guardian website’ – Yotam Ottolenghi

Servings: 5 people
Ingredients
  • 2 ½   tsp smoked paprika for the marinade
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika for sprinkling
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 200 g buttermilk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in (about 1kg in total)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • enough panko breadcrumbs to coat the chicken
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the paprika for the marinade, garlic and buttermilk with three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Add the chicken thighs, toss well to coat, then set aside in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight (or two).

  2. Heat the oven to 180C. Spread out the chicken skin side up on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle them with a tiny bit of extra smoked paprika so the smokey taste comes out even more in the finished dish. Roast them for 40 minutes, basting once or twice. I did this with a silicone brush.

  3. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and increase the oven temperature to 220C. Take another silicone brush and brush the oil over the chicken. Then sprinkle the panko breadcrumbs evenly on top and bake the chicken for 10-15 minutes more, until dark golden brown, leave to rest for a few minutes and serve warm.

Orange, Thyme, & Spice Chicken Wings

Chicken wings are a popular favourite food with both kids and adults, at parties or as a week meal with some veggies. They are easy to prepare, inexpensive, and delicious and you tell me what kid (or adult) isn’t happy to eat chicken wings with his fingers? There’s something that’s just fun about eating with your hands, it can make adults feel like kids again, and it makes kids feel like, well, like kids of course!

The orange marmalade and the orange juice in this recipe lends an unexpected twist to the flavour and pairs wonderfully with the spices in this recipe, creating a finger-licking shiny glaze you’ll need plenty of napkins for. The meat is really tender and falls off the bone. The cayenne give these wings a spicy kick which can be a little too much for small kids so adjust the cayenne when you feel it is needed. A little planning will be required, because they turn out best when they’re marinated ahead of time. They need at least 3 hours, but overnight is even better.

I never bother buying chicken wings where the wing is already cut in 2 pieces. I always buy them whole, but I did notice that guests are more comfortable eating it in smaller pieces so you could consider cutting them for the perfect finger food. In that way they are sure to disappear pretty quickly if served at a party.

Just typing out this recipe makes my mouth water and my fingers itch to get into the kitchen and prepare them for tomorrows dinner. I must confess I love chicken wings more than any human being should. Eating these wings will make you feel like you died and went to heaven. I always knew you get your wings when you go to heaven, I never knew they would be so scrumptious.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

 

Orange, Thyme, & Spice Chicken Wings

Source: ‘Sirocco: 'Fabulous Flavors from the Middle East’ - Sabrina Ghayour.

Servings: 4 people
Ingredients
  • 1,3 kilo chicken wings
  • 200 ml fresh orange juice
  • 6 tbsp orange marmalade
  • 4 heaping teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 heaping teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 heaping teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients except the chicken wings in a large bowl. Add the chicken wings to the bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Using your hands, massage the marinade into the chicken wings, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight.

  2. When you are ready to cook, bring the chicken wings to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a large baking sheet with foil and place the chicken wings on the prepared sheet (make sure to reserve the excess marinade).  Position the wings on the baking sheet in a single layer to ensure that the wings aren't overlapping each other. By the way........I had so many chicken wings on the baking sheet that mine did overlap a little (see picture).

  3. Roast the wings on the top rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Turn the chicken wings over and brush them with some of the reserved marinade. Continue to roast for another 15 minutes or until the chicken wings are deeply browned and cooked through. Keep in mind that the sweet marinade will make them blacken a little around the edges, which is perfectly OK.

  4. While the chicken is in the oven set a small saucepan over a high heat, pour in the leftover marinade and bring to a boil. Cook for a few minutes until reduced to a sauce-like consistency. If it becomes too thick, let it down with a tablespoon of water. Give the chicken wings a final brush with the cooked down marinade and serve immediately.