Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Tagine. Huh?

You may or may not have heard the word "Tagine" before. Until recently I had only ever seen it linked to pictures of what looked like ordinary stews, and heard it murmured a few times in the presence of something exotic looking with at least 5 different spices, at least one unusual ingredient, and a stone/earthenware dish that looks like this:
I did a little research after I saw a recipe for a Chicken Tagine in a recently acquired cookbook (Laura Calder, French Taste). In a nutshell, a Tagine really is just an ordinary stew originating in North Africa, named after the heavy clay pot it is served and cooked in. The top is cone/dome shaped to encourage all the condensation to return to the base of the dish (can you say moist meat?).  You certainly don't need the fancy dish to make the recipe taste authentic - a regular pot will do.
There are a few spices involved, but nothing you can't find in your usual grocery store. In the recipe I'm going to give you, they do call for preserved lemons (EASY to make, but take a couple weeks to preserve), which you could probably find with some searching.

I didn't actually cook this time - I was trying to fit too many things into one evening so Dave made it. I have to say he did a great job, but also tell you (without offending him!) that it is a super easy recipe so there's no need to be scared by how exotic it sounds. It was also DELICIOUS - I was very surprised. I don't usually pick a recipe unless I think it's going to be good, but sometimes it really comes out better than what I imagine. I may be choosing a recipe for the minorities - I know Olives are a touchy subject, but I love them and they really make this dish great.

Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemons
Serves 4
4 chicken legs, split at the joint and skinned (or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in large cubes)
salt and pepper
2 onions, grated or sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Skins of 2 preserved lemons, chopped (remember to rinse the lemons first, or you will die of salt!)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 pinches saffron (it's not a big deal if you don't have any)
Pinch turmeric (I used curry powder)
1 cup green olives, with or without pits
A generous handful or two of chopped cilantro

Put everything except the olives and cilantro in a pot, add a couple glasses of water, cover, and summer until the chicken is done, about 40 minutes. Remove the lid if there is too much liquid so some can evaporate (The dish should be quite liquid, but it's not as thick as a stew). At the end of cooking, add the olives and cilantro. Serve over couscous or quinoa.

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