When I was a kid in my early 20’s I was thrown in the slammer for 8 hours in the city of Fez. All this because I was talking with Moroccan students on the street; the police saw us and thought we were subversives. We may have looked a bit hippy-ish, but we were just 24 years old after all, just out to see the world. Anyway that experience harkened the end of my 2 month stay in Morocco, but I had had one of the great adventures of my life. The visuals were amazing: camels, palm trees, desert, blue nomads, berbers, veiled women, mosques, colourful tiles and extreme colour everywhere.
Oh, and the smells of steaming tagines, mint tea, charmoula scented fish, rose water sweets and on and on. I loved hanging out in the souks of Marrakech with the locals eating, drinking and just submerging my young mind in a new culture. I have never forgotten Morocco, the heat from the Harissa and spice from the Ras el Hanout.
Now many years later, I think of those moments when I teach our Moroccan cooking class in our “little bite of the world series” of cooking classes. Watching people light up as they dip into a steaming chicken tagine or indulge in richly flavoured crepes with dates reminds me of my amazing adventure in Morocco. Our chicken tagine is simple and delicious and worth serving any time of the year. Why don’t you try it and let me know what you think? I think I’m ready to add a Moroccan menu to our corporate team building options. I can see the CEOs’ come riding in on the camels now.
1 glove garlic, chopped finely
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground paprika
pinch saffron threads, crushed
sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 free range chicken, 1.5 kg, in pieces
2 medium onions, sliced
¼ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
¼ bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
30 gm butter
juice of ½ lemon, to taste
peel of 1 large preserved lemon, cut in strips
150 gm green or purple olives
- Mix the garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika, saffron, salt and pepper in a large flameproof casserole or pot. Add the chicken, and rub well with the spice mix. Add the onions. Add the herbs, reserving 1 tbsp of each for garnish. Add about 500 ml water and the cinnamon. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Add the oil and butter. Cover and boil gently for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep warm. Discard the cinnamon stick. Boil the broth uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until concentrated.
- Add the preserved lemon peel and olives. Add the lemon juice, to taste. Simmer for a further few minutes.
- Return the chicken to the pan, turning the pieces in the sauce to coat. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and season. Serve with the remaining parsley and coriander sprinkled over the top.
Note: You can either leave chicken whole or cut into pieces.