Friday, July 22, 2011

grilled moroccan chicken and vegetable tagine

hi mum!

i do these recipe posts for my mother, who is apparently a bad cook (it's okay mum, you're good at other things, and you still make an excellent chocolate cake). and to please my sister, who came to this realization far earlier in her life than i ever did and now bugs me all the time to fly home to canada and cook for her.

goal number one hundred and eighteen on my list of things to do if i don't work this summer was to learn to cook moroccan. if you didn't already know, after our trip to marrakech this spring i am now obsessed with moroccan food. let me tell you how much i love moroccan food. a few years ago i would never have tried moroccan cuisine (i was boring like that) but i've learned that i actually like most foods that i try (my jeans don't like that so much). and moroccan food is some of the best stuff i've ever put in my mouth. it's spicy but in a spice-y way, not in an eating hot peppers whole way. preserved lemon and olive chicken tagine, kefta, moroccan salads... seriously, be still my little heart. i would hop a plane back to morocco right now just for the food.

so, you get my point.

dinner number two of the evening (go on, judge me) in jemaa el-fnaa, marrakech (march 2011)
anyway, it turns out moroccan food has its very own set of words and ingredients and cooking tools. it's complicated, but so is learning to swim in water that's is over your head and i've sort of ticked that off my list to-do too. (learning to cook moroccan tastes better than sea water, for the record.)

my new dream kitchen gadget? a tagine (preferably from le creuset). it's the special clay pot that a lot of moroccan dishes are cooked in. but for now i'm cooking moroccan with my limited kitchen supplies and a handful of spices we picked up in the marrakech souks. these are the easiest recipes i've learned and tweaked and you can make them without having to pick up too many fussy ingredients from the grocer.

in my recipes i take a note from canadian/italian chef david rocco and use the abbreviation QB. it means quanto basta, an italian term which translates into something like 'as much as you like or need'. no mum, this doesn't mean throw whatever you have into a pan and see what happens. it means use as much as what tastes, smells and looks good. it's like intuitive cooking, or something new-agey like that.

also, i don't have pictures for you because every time i make these things i'm too hungry to take a photo of them before i inhale. whoops.

finally, ras al hanout (which one recipe calls for) is a moroccan spice mix which translates into 'head of the shop'. the 'head' of each spice shop makes his own blend, but you can find recipes for your own on the internet. our ras al hanout from marrakech is amazing and i will be so sad when it's all gone. but it's really a dish enhancer, not a deal-breaker, so don't worry about buying or making any if it seems daunting to you.

fun fact - the spices on display in the souks are actually not for sale. they are for tourists to take photos of (which i obligingly did). you wouldn't actually want to eat spices that had been sitting out all day everyday for months, would you?

adapted from the food of morocco by tess mallos

2 chicken breasts, skinned and boned
pinch of saffron threads
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
1 + 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 lemons, juiced

Step 1: prepare the chicken. rinse and dry well with paper towels. cut deep slashes diagonally in each breast.

Step 2: prepare the spices. using a mortar and pestle grind the saffron threads with the coarse salt. add the garlic and work into a paste. work in the paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, black pepper, lemon juice and olive oil.

Step 3: rub the spice mix into the chicken breasts, rubbing it into the slashes. cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight.

Step 4: bring the chickens to room temperature 1 hour prior to cooking.

Step 5: grill the chicken. cook until you don't poison yourself with salmonella.


olive oil, QB
1 cup water
1 onion, sliced into rings
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into large, thin planks
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
1 + 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon ras al hanout (optional)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped parsley
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of saffron threads
tomato puree, QB

Step 1: prepare the spices. using a mortar and pestle grind the saffron threads with the coarse salt. add the ginger, ras al hanouf, pepper, cumin, nutmeg and cinnamon. work together with the pestle. combine with 1 cup water. set aside.

Step 2: coat the bottom of a large, thick baking or casserole dish in a generous amount of olive oil.

Step 3: layer vegetables in the dish in this order: onions, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes. drizzle olive oil on top.

Step 4: pour spice mixture into the dish.

Step 5: if you aren't convinced there is enough liquid in your dish, add as much tomato puree as you like (quanto basta). dish and vegetable slice sizes vary, so there's no science to it.

Step 6: bake at 220 deg C for at least an hour and a half, or until the vegetables are well cooked and fragrant.

Step 7: garnish with parsley. the freshness of the parsley kicks up the overall taste, but bonus points because it also looks fancy.

p.s. vegetable tagine tastes even better the next day as leftovers. 

- Jess

1 comment :

  1. This Morrocan food looks so unique and delicious! I love trying out different types of dishes from other parts of the world, it's always a nice change. I'd love to try out a recipe for myself :).


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