By Morris Lemire
This Moroccan recipe is a wonderful way to try tajine cooking for the first time or the hundredth time. For more about tajine cooking, click here to read the full article!
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp saffron (optional)
I tsp Ras el-Hanout*
1 cinnamon stick, 5 cm
To taste salt & pepper
1 onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, lightly bruised
1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
¼ cup (60 mL) lemon juice
¼ cup (60 mL) olive oil
1 chicken, 1.75-2.25 Kg, cut into 6 pieces
4 carrots, cut into 5cm pieces
3 dates, pitted and halved
2 ripe tomatoes, quartered, or 1 can of Italian Romano, drained
2 sections of preserved lemon (buy, or easy to make ahead of time)
2 cups (500 mL) homemade chicken stock for Western pot, ¼ cup + (60 mL +) if using a tajine
I can of chickpeas, drained
½ cup mint leaves for garnish
- In a large bowl, mix all the spices, add onion, garlic, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil. Add in the chicken pieces and mix well. Refrigerate 3 to 18 hours before cooking.
- Now you are ready to layer all the ingredients into your pot. Put in the chicken, and if there isn’t room on the bottom, pile the extra pieces on top of the others in the middle of the pot.
- Lay the carrots in from the sides to the middle like the spokes of a wheel. Fill in the spaces between the carrots with onion, garlic cloves, pitted dates, and tomatoes.
- Arrange the preserved lemon, parsley and cinnamon sticks over everything.
- If you are using a regular pot, add all the stock, or enough to cover half the chicken. However: If you are using a traditional tajine, drizzle a ¼ cup (60 mL) of stock over the ingredients.
- Bring to a boil, quickly turn the heat to low and cook for 50 minutes at a slow simmer. After 50 minutes, add the drained chickpeas. If you think you need a little more liquid, add a few tablespoons of stock. Replace the lid and cook at a simmer for an hour. As for doneness, I like the meat to easily pull away from the bone.
- Serve in bowls over couscous, garnished with the chopped mint.
* Ras el-Hanout is a blend of spices used in Moroccan cuisine, like tajnes and couscous. A local friend, and scholar on North Africa, says that the name is a colloquialism meaning: “A handful of the best things”.
Every country across the Maghreb, every spice merchant, and certainly every home cook, has their own “secret” blend. For this recipe, I tried a blend from Silk Road (in both Edmonton and Calgary), which I found to be very good. You can also find them on-line.
If you have trouble finding saffron, don’t worry, your tajine will still taste lovely.