This blog is a special one, purely because it’s about a country that has a rich heritage and a diversified food culture, influenced by the European and Mediterranean cultures. Spices are usually used unsparingly. Cardamom, Cinnamon and Saffron are very common. Here in this blog our passion for food take us to the streets of Marrakesh where Tagines line the streets and its aroma whiff around the entire city, an open invitation for the passer-by to come and indulge in Morocco and its culture.
I have had, many visits to this beautiful country, gosh, how can we forget Casablanca, I was invited to my dear friend Yasmine’s house in the Tangiers. They were magnanimous in their welcome and it was a true foodie experience, we had tagines, cous cous, fresh salads and not to forget ‘atai’ a green tea with mint, it would have been impolite to turn it down regardless of how many times in the day we were offered it. Our host answered every culinary question we had for her – how do you do this, why do you do that? every question answered with a charming smile. Moroccan hospitality is another level on this planet, no conversation is complete without a large meal and the entire family sitting around.
For this blog we have cooked a Tagine, which is basically a stew cooked in a tagine, the artisans of Morocco make these colourful pots with great pride. This pot has been in use for many years and even finds a mention in One Thousand and One Nights and even back to Harun Al-Rashid, a Muslim ruler from earlier years. There is also a Heritage Carrot Salad, a Spicy Quinoa Chickpea and Feta Salad, Orange Carrot Cucumber and Walnut Salad, A Cucumber Mint and Red onion salad. To finish our heavenly meal, we had an Orange and Watermelon platter with a hint of lime.
Chicken and Apricot Tagine with a Chermoula
For the Tagine – Ingredients:
- 1 Whole Chicken (medium, cut into 8 pieces)
- 1 Onion (medium, sliced)
- 0.5 cup Chicken broth
- 1 pinch of Saffron threads
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 Tsp Corn starch
- 4 Cardamom pods
- 1 Tbsp flat leaf Parsley, (chopped)
- 5 Apricot, (fresh cut in half)
- 1.5 Tbsp Pistachios (shelled)
- 2 Potatoes, (Sliced thin)
The Marinade for the Chicken – Ingredients:
- 1 Tbsp Olive oil
- 2 cloves Garlic (minced)
- 1.5 tsp Himalayan Sea salt
- 1/2 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Ground Coriander
- 1 tsp Paprika
- 1 tsp Fresh Ginger (grated)
For the chermoula – Ingredients:
- 2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh coriander
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 11⁄2 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp salt
- 1⁄2 red finger chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 1⁄2 tsp saffron strands
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil juice 1 lemon
- 11⁄2 tsp paprika
Orange, Carrot, Cucumber and Walnut Salad – Ingredients:
- 5 Blood Oranges
- 2 Carrots large
- 1 Purple Heritage Carrot large
- 1 Baby Cucumber
- 3 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried Thyme
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp Black Olives
- 10 Walnuts
- ¼ Tsp Sea salt flakes
Chickpea, Arugula, Quinoa and Feta Salad – Ingredients:
FOR THE SALAD:
- 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 Tins Chickpeas (200gm Tins, rinsed and drained)
- ½ tsp Paprika Powder
- ½ Tsp Cumin Powder
- 3 cups grated Carrots (from 4 medium carrots)
- 5 ounces baby Arugula (washed)
- 1 cup Pistachios, Almonds & Pumpkin seeds (toasted)
- 100gm Feta (crumbled)
- 1/4 cup Golden Raisins & Chopped Dates
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (approx. 15 leaves)
- 1 Tbsp Pomegranate Seeds
FOR THE DRESSING:
- 3 Tbsp Virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp fresh Lemon Juice (squeeze 1 medium lemon)
- 1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
- 1 Tsp Agave Nectar
- 3/4 Tsp ground Chili Powder
- 1/2 Tsp Sea Salt (as per taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
Cucumber and Mint Salad:
- 2 Baby Cucumber
- 5 Mint Leaves
- 1 Tsp Lemon Juice
- 1 Tsp Olive Oil
Heritage Carrot Slaw:
- 2 Heritage Purple Carrot – Large
- ½ Carrot
- ½ cup Golden Raisins
- 1 Tbsp Flat Leaf Parsley (chopped)
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 4 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- ¼ Tsp Salt
- ¼ Tsp Black Pepper Ground
- Firstly, season and marinate the chicken.
- In a small bowl mix together all the spices under section the marinade, place the cut-up chicken in a dish, and drizzle with the olive oil, mix thoroughly.
- Now sprinkle the spice mixture, and again, mix thoroughly.
- Place in the refrigerator for 3 hours.
- To prepare the tagine –
- Place the onions on the bottom of the tagine dish, and sprinkle with salt. Sweat them down for about 20 minutes on medium heat until translucent.
- Slowly, add the chicken.
- Cook for about 20 minutes, uncovered, and turn around once or twice to cook evenly.
- In a bowl, whisk together the broth, tomato paste, and corn starch, and add to the chicken. Now, sprinkle the saffron to the tagine. Stir to combine.
- Tie the cardamom pods in a piece of cheesecloth with a piece of twine. Add to the chicken and broth mixture.
- Stir in the apricots (the trick here is to grill the apricot first with a little olive oil) and pistachios, keep a few pieces of apricot and pistachio for the garnish at the end.
- Line with the potatoes forming circles over the simmering chicken.
- Cover, and cook for 1 hour on low heat over a wood fire, remember to put an iron griddle or something between the fir and the tagine pot to prevent it from cracking. Ladle out any excess liquid, keep it warm and save for later when serving. This helps it from leaking all over and burning the bottom of the tagine pot.
- Cook until the chicken is tender, and the potatoes are soft. Sprinkle the parsley and the reserved apricot and pistachios. Serve with Chermoula.
Place all the ingredients for the chermoula into a food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- Peel and segment the oranges, then refrigerate until ready to use.
- Using a vegetable peeler, cut the carrots lengthways into wide ribbons. Repeat with the cucumber, except, when you reach the seeds, turn the cucumber 45 degrees and repeat on the other sides. Discard the seedy core and set aside.
- In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, thyme and lemon juice, until smooth.
- Just before you are ready to serve, toss the orange segments, carrot and cucumber ribbons, olives, walnuts and dressing in a large bowl. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes and serve immediately.
Chickpea, Arugula, Quinoa and Feta Salad Method:
- In a medium saucepan, cook the quinoa with 2 cups of water on a low heat, leave covered once all the water has been absorbed. Cool
- Take a medium skillet and pour little bit of olive oil and toss the chickpea add paprika, salt and cumin sauté for about 2 minutes and cool.
- Place the chickpeas and grated carrots in a large mixing bowl. Mix well and keep aside.
- In a small bowl whisk together the ingredients for the dressing ingredients, adjust the seasoning and balance as per taste. Reserve a little for the arugula
- Loosen the quinoa with a fork and add to the bowl with the dressing mix well to combine. Add the reserved dressing to the arugula and keep aside.
- In a deep plate at the centre arrange the quinoa and around it the dressed arugula, now add the chickpea then sprinkle the crumbled Feta.
- Sprinkle with the pistachios, feta, raisins, pomegranate seeds and mint. Serve with lemon wedges.
Cucumber and Mint Salad Method:
Trim the edges of the Baby Cucumber, then cut the cucumber into half in the centre (not half lengthwise). Keeping it upright slice the about .5cm from the edge. You only want the green outer part and a bit of the flesh nit the seeds. Now cut this into Batons and repeat for the rest. In a bowl add the cucumber baton, hand torn mint, olive oil and the lemon juice and place in a bowl ready to be served.
Heritage Carrot Slaw Method:
- Grate the carrot (both heritage and regular).
- In a bowl add the carrot, raisin, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and the seasoning, now add the chopped parsley and serve.