For my leaving do (yes, I changed jobs) my work colleagues got me something I was dying to get my hands on – a tagine. This clay pot is a lovely blue addition to my kitchen and, I hope, will allow me to make more and more of these fragrant and aromatic Moroccan stews. I will spare you the history of the tagine itself, let it be sufficient to say that it comes from North Africa and it comprises two parts: a base unit, which is flat and circular and looks like a big bowl, and a lid, usually of a conical shape and with a hole at the top, which sits on top of the base during cooking.
The shape of the tagine means the steam only has the small hole at the top to escape, thus stewing the meat even further and making it extremely tender and succulent. If you have never tried a tagine dish before, then maybe you should. The flavour and the smell of the ingredients are concentrated inside the base, so that when the conical lid is removed, you are hit with a wall of aroma unique in its kind.
The recipe below comes from one of the episodes of the Hairy Bikers – Mama knows best TV series, although the person who provided the recipe is actually a woman by the name of Nassira Jmil. I have, as usual, slightly adapted it, mostly to conform it to my taste, but all of the credit goes to her for a truly vibrant and fruity dish.
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- few sprigs of coriander, finely chopped
- small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 5 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- pinch of saffron
- 8 x corn fed chicken thighs, skin removed but bone on
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 300g dried prunes
- 300g dried apricots
- 6 tbsp golden caster sugar
- handful of almonds, roughly chopped
- salt & pepper
- olive oil
- Start by marinating the meat. This could be done for as little as two hours or, even better, overnight. Put half of the chopped onions and garlic in a bowl, then add a good glug of olive oil, half of the coriander and half of the parsley. Top with the lemon juice, 1 tsp each of ground ginger and cinnamon, the turmeric and salt and pepper. Put the chicken thighs in the bowl and rub the marinade on them. Cover with clingfilm and leave until needed.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan, then fry the chicken thighs until golden on both sides. Set aside.
- Put some olive oil and the leftover onion, garlic and ginger in the tagine dish, then top with the chicken thighs. Season with some black pepper and the rest of the cinnamon, then add a splash of water. Crumble the stock cubes on top, add the saffron, then top the tagine with its lid and put in the oven for at least one hour or until tender. Check your meat after one hour as you don’t want it to dry out.
- In the meantime, prepare your fruit. In two separate saucepans, tumble the apricots and the prunes, then fill with water and sprinkle half of the sugar into each. Simmer over a low heat until very tender, then drain and set aside.
- Once the meat in the tagine is ready, remove from the oven and add the soft apricots and prunes. Sprinkle with the chopped almonds and some parsley or coriander.