Chicken Tagine

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I recently made a purchase on my long time wishlist (drum roll~) – Tagine!! The photo below is my new “Le Souk Ceramique” tagine, made in Tunisia. 
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I’ve been wanting this for a very long time, but for a claypot, it’s a bit pricey.  I finally convinced myself that if I don’t get it now when would I get it?  Think of all the money you’ve saved by not going to Morocco or Tunisia to buy this beautiful claypot!  After “curing” the tagine for 2 days (1 full day of soaking in cold water, air drying it for few hours, rubbing olive oil into the pot, baking in the oven for 2 hours, and finally gradually cooling down the tagine for few hours). 

I’ve also been under the weather, so I wanted to eat something with a kick, and what a perfect way to use my new tagine to accomplish this!  There are so many tagine recipe out there, I even had few in my recipe file (given to me by a friend who lived in Morocco), but I couldn’t find it, I’m sure it’s somewhere.  I found a simple looking recipe by Jamie Oliver for Beef Tagine, and all I did was substitute beef with chicken, and added some more vegetables. 

With any tagine, it’s always recommended to cook over low heat, and to use a heat diffuser. Heat diffuser will even out your heat and eliminate any hot spots and burn in one area.   Mine looks like this:
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Serves: 4-6
• 600g stewing beef (I used chicken thighs and drumsticks)
• olive oil
• 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
• a small bunch of fresh coriander
• 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
• 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
• 800ml vegetable stock, preferably organic
• 1 small squash (approximately 800g), deseeded and cut into 5cm chunks
• 100g prunes, stoned and roughly torn
• 2 tablespoons flaked almonds, toasted

For the spice rub

• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 level tablespoon ras el hanout spice mix**
• 1 level tablespoon ground cumin
• 1 level tablespoon ground cinnamon
• 1 level tablespoon ground ginger
• 1 level tablespoon sweet paprika

**Ras el hanout
(Arabic for “top of the shop”) is a blend of the best spices a vendor has in his shop. The mixture varies depending on who is selling it, but can be a combination of anywhere from 10 to 100 spices. It usually includes nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, aniseed, turmeric, cayenne, peppercorns, dried galangal, ginger, cloves, cardamom, chilli, allspice and orris root. (I just added a little of each spices here, except for orris root). 

Mix all the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Put the beef into a large bowl, massage it with the spice rub, then cover with cling film and put into the fridge for a couple of hours – ideally overnight – that way the spices really penetrate and flavor the meat.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a generous lug of olive oil in a tagine or casserole– type pan and fry the meat over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add your chopped onion and coriander stalks and fry for another 5 minutes. Tip in the chickpeas and tomatoes, then pour in 400ml of stock and stir. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on the pan or cover with foil and reduce to a simmer for 1½hours.
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(see how low the heat is?  by using the heat diffuser, even with this low heat the mixture inside bubbles)
At this point, add your squash, the prunes and the rest of the stock. Give everything a gentle stir, then pop the lid back on the pan and continue cooking for another 1½ hours. Keep an eye on it and add a splash of water if it looks too dry.
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Once the time is up, take the lid off and check the consistency. If it seems a bit too runny, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, more with the lid off. The beef should be really tender and flaking apart now, so have a taste and season with a pinch or two of salt. Scatter the coriander leaves over the tagine along with the toasted almonds, then take it straight to the table with a big bowl of lightly seasoned couscous and dive in.

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My opinion: This was such a wholesome comforting food.  We ate this with couscous and I just love how the spices penetrated into the chicken.  The meat fell off the bones and I just love the vegetables, especially the addition of prunes was really yummy!  I’ll have to look for my Moroccan tagine recipe and make it again!!

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