Lately, it seems that everywhere you turn (at least in a good kitchen store), it’s all about tagines and Moroccan flavours. Almost every respectable kitchen store has a handmade clay tagine, the traditional cooking vessel of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The tagines are placed on a prominent end cap of the store with artfully arranged Moroccan cookbooks and jars of harissa precariously stacked. Don’t get me wrong, I love Moroccan and Algerian food and flavours; some of my favourite people are Moroccan and Algerian (one particular 11 month old with big brown eyes and long, lush eyelashes that would be the envy of any woman, has totally stolen my heart.)
I noticed, since I’ve been getting the BBC Good Food magazine, that Moroccan flavours are becoming very popular in the UK. Maybe some of my British friends would like to comment on this trend. I am all for flavourful trends and love a good bandwagon to jump on.
I have been in love with The Maghreb flavours for a while now, even before this bandwagon came along. I’ve had Moroccan and Algerian friends and was introduced to their cuisine a while back and have loved it since. I love the sweet and spicy flavours of their tagines, the buttery couscous and the tangy preserved lemons. I appreciate the skill it takes to make their pastries and am always in awe of the patience of my friends who churn out one delicate filigree after another.
I believe I have mentioned in the past, my weakness for acquiring every specialty cooking vessel or specialty baking pan that is made. I have long wanted a tagine, not only because they’re so dang cool, but because they are beautiful and traditional and impart a special flavour to the dish. I held out for a long time, I was quite impressed with myself, but last week I gave in. Williams and Sonoma had a gorgeous, hand painted Tunisian tagine that I couldn’t resist.
Here’s the kicker: I didn’t cook this tagine in my new clay pot. I bought the clay tagine after I had made the tagine stew and was marvelling at how wonderful it had turned out in a Dutch oven. Then I started wondering at how wonderfully, traditional tasting it would be from a clay pot. I shouldn’t really think, for me thinking invariably leads to spending money and that’s just trouble.
So, I made this is in a Dutch oven and you can too, unless you want to start thinking and see where that leads. I will let you know when I use my new tagine. It’s all seasoned and ready to go; just waiting for me to be inspired.
This is a simple chicken and vegetable stew flavoured with harissa, the Moroccan spicy, hot sauce/paste. I didn’t have any preserved lemons, prunes or olives to make the famously Moroccan tagines, but I did have harissa and a bunch of vegetables. It turned out really well and was hearty, filling and deliciously spicy.
I used a whole chicken with skin, and removed the skin after I browned the pieces. This would work really well with boneless, skinless thighs if you wanted something quick. Thighs don’t dry out as much after prolonged cooking and even in my stew, the thigh pieces were the most juicy. Use any vegetables you have but remember that a tagine is typically a slow cooking vessel and you don’t want soft vegetables disintegrating. I just added my vegetables a little later so they still kept their shape. Serve with a buttery couscous and some salad to complete the Moroccan dinner.
- 8-12 pieces whole chicken (I used skin on and removed the skin after browning)
- 2 large zucchini, medium chunk
- 1 small eggplant, peeled and in medium chunks
- 1 red bell pepper, medium pieces
- 2 large potatoes, medium chunks
- 1 medium onion, chopped fine
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 11/2 cups chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons harissa paste
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons mint, chopped
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil
- salt and pepper
- In a Dutch oven on medium high heat, brown the chicken pieces in a 2 tablespoons oil.
- If using skin on chicken, remove skin after browning (gets all slimy after braising)
- After all pieces have been browned, add more oil if needed, and sauté the onions.
- After the onions are browning lightly, add the garlic, turmeric and paprika and cook a little.
- Add the chicken pieces and 1 cup of the broth and 1 tablespoon of the harissa paste. Bring up to a boil and cover.
- Lower the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes add the potatoes and the remaining broth.
- Slow cook until the potatoes are beginning to soften, about 15 minutes.
- Add the zucchini, eggplant and red peppers.
- Cook until the potatoes are soft and the chicken is cooked through, another 10-15 minutes.
- Taste the sauce for salt and pepper and add the 2 tablespoons of harissa paste if you want it more spicy.
- Add the mint and parsley and heat through.
- Serve atop couscous.
So, what are your favourite flavours? Do you like all cuisines or have particular flavours that you prefer?
Hope you are all having a great weekend and cooking up exciting flavours!