Monday, November 19, 2007

Chicken Tagine

Lamb and prunes, chicken and preserved lemons, goat and pears or this recipe which uses dried apricots – all tagines mix meat and fruit with spice to create a highly aromatic stew that almost touches on the ‘mutton grabs’ or kebse of Middle Eastern cuisine. But in North Africa, couscous takes the place of rice: cracked wheat, soaked and cooked up with vegetables, stock or anything that comes to hand.

Tagine is not fancy food: make it chunky and rustic if you want to really get those flavours to explode with every mouthful. Or liquidise it if you are feeding babies…

I soak my apricots in wine, but this is naughty. Use water to be properly authentic.

I use breast meat because it’s easier. Ideally, you should use full chopped chickens, legs or bony breasts. If you do, increase the cooking time to 35-45 minutes.

The apricots can be soaked for a couple of hours but should be let soak overnight, ideally.

A last note. Sarah loves this served not with couscous but with basmati rice piled up in a deep bowl that preserves the heat. She married me: what can I say – she’s strange.


  • 200g dried apricots, soaked
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
  • 2 onions, chopped roughly
  • 4 breasts chicken (800g), in chunks
  • 2” fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp harissa paste
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 4 tbsp runny honey
  • ½ cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • 500ml good chicken stock
  • A generous pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Fry off the onions in the oil over a medium heat, stirring to stop them burning and letting them turn transparent and start to go golden. Add the chicken, stirring it to brown it slightly then add the harissa, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cumin and saffron and stir it all up to let everything combine and sizzle up nicely. Drain the soaked apricots and then add these, stir them in and then add the honey and, finally, the stock. Add half the fresh coriander. From this point, the dish will be cooked in 15 minutes, covered but with the occasional stir. If you’re doing this for a dinner party, you can turn off the heat after 10 minutes and cover the dish, reheating when you’re ready.

Sprinkle the rest of the coriander over when you’re serving it up.

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