Wednesday, 8 February 2012

M’chermel Chicken (Moroccan Chicken Tajine with Lemon and Olives)



Arctic Frost still breathes through Paris, and my want for warmth and sunshiny dishes is still very strong. Why not prepare a nice Moroccan tajine then?, I thought. It’s a slow-cooked stew braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce.

Now, FYI, a tajine, or tagine, is a dish from North Africa named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked. The traditional tajine pot (cf. the Wikipedia photo to the right) is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving. As I don’t own a real tajine myself, I prepared the dish in a simple pot. What’s important is to cover the stew and to cook at really low heat.

What you need (for 4 persons): 
  • 6-8 chicken legs (or chicken breasts; I prefer them even if the meat is drier than that of the legs –beat me!) 
  • 1 onion 
  • 1 spoonful of ground ginger 
  • 1 spoonful of turmeric 
  • 1 spoonful of saffron 
  • Fresh Parsley 
  • Fresh coriander (or ground coriander) 
  • 1 spoonful of paprika 
  • 1 spoonful of ground cumin 
  • 2 candied lemons (if you don’t find that, you can use fresh lemon, but the taste is not the same) 
  • Some pitted green olives (as many as you like, actually) 
  • Some chicken broth (or half a bouillon cube) 
  • Salt, pepper 
  • Olive oil 
  • Optional: 4-5 potatoes
How to proceed: 
  • Prepare the marinade for the chicken: mix some olive oil, the chopped parsley and coriander, paprika and cumin. Cover the chicken with it, put the preparation in the fridge (for at least 2 hours; better still, prepare the marinade in the morning if you want to cook the recipe for dinner). 
  • Cut the onion into slivers. 
  • Heat some oil in your pan (or your tajine pot if you’re lucky enough to own one). 
  • Add the marinated chicken (with the marinate), the onion slivers, olives, salt and pepper. 
  • Add the ginger, turmeric and saffron. 
  • Stir until the chicken has got a nice colour. 
  • Add the chicken broth (your chicken should be more or less covered by the liquid). If you’re as lazy as I, you can use half a bouillon cube and add some water. 
  • If you want, you can add some potatoes (like I did). Peal them, cut them in halves, add them now.
  • Cover the stew, cook at low temperature for 20-30 minutes. 
  • Take off the lid and cook some more until the sauce gets unctuous. 
  • Cut the candied lemon into slices. 
  • Add the slices, cook for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Serve with couscous (semolina) or rice. 
Really delicious, a fabulous blend of flavours and textures; spicy without being hot; and the candied lemon gives the whole dish that sweet-sour extra-touch… Not to mention the semolina soaked with sauce. A treat! Enjoy with bon appétit

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