Chicken Tagine 10946: A Moroccan Enigma

Chicken tagine

Another day and another series of blasts in my favorite Indian city of Mumbai. We don’t know why and we don’t know who, but what we know is how many died, how many got hurt and how many will see their lives changed forever because of this incident. And none of it in a good way. Someday, I hope my curse bears fruit and these perpetrators of death and hatred suffer a painful, deadly end themselves. For the time being, my heart and prayers go out to those who lost a little or a lot.

I can’t remember when was the first time I had tagine. I mean, I always swooned over all things Moroccan and it’s on the top of my list of countries to visit. But tagine never happened, well not until a long time. I think I stumbled onto a tagine recipe somewhere and found it deceivingly simple to make. Tried it , tested it, varied it, retried it and now I make it often. In case you are wondering I might have made it 10946 times already, you are wrong. It is just the (perhaps i.e.) 10946th version of a classic morroccan dish :). I mean the current population of Morocco is around 35 Million. Assuming a family of 5, we are talking 7 million families. Assuming one family is related to at least 14 families, we are talking 0.5 Million clusters of family. I won’t be surprised, considering what a classic dish this is, that each cluster has their ‘unique’ tagine recipe which makes at least half a million recipes floating around. I am guessing there is one cluster out there whose recipe matches mine, regardless of which number of cluster that is 🙂 So long story short, this is just a random number assigned to a recipe which has as many versions as patrons !!!
You can also make a vegeterian version of this or a lamb version. And while I have never tried the vegeterian option, the lamb one is more time and effort taking. So it will have to wait for another day. In the meanwhile, try this out.

Ingredients: Serves 4

1.5 Lbs of chicken breasts (not the thin sliced versions please)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp cumin powder)
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 tsp turmeric
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Harissa (moroccan chilli paste, optional)
1 tsp dried ginger powder
1½ cups low sodium chicken stock (or water)
1/2 bunch cilantro/coriander, rinsed and tied with a string
2/3 cups dried apricots (or prunes)
2/3 cups sliced carrots
15 threads of saffron
1/2 a preserved lemon, thinly sliced (if you dont have it, use 1 tbsp lemon juice instead)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Wash, clean and pat dry the chicken breasts. Cut each into half.
2. Arrange the chicken breasts in the pan and sear each side till it browns. The process should take around 5-7 minutes each side.
3. Remove the chicken to a plate. Add the cumin seeds and chopped onion in the pan with the left over oil. Make sure you scrape the pan to loosen the browned bits (they will add

amazing flavor to the dish). Cook till the onions turn golden, around 3-4 mins.
4. Now add the turmeric, cinnamon sticks, paprika, harissa and ginger powder and cook for another minute or two.
5. Add the chicken stock to the pan and mix everything well. Dump the cilantro into the pan and add the apricots to it. Add the carrots in as well.
6. Add the browned chicken pieces to the pan, reduce the heat to low and cove the pan. Simmer it for about 20-30 minutes, till the chicken is done and the broth becomes fragrant and sauce like.
7. Remove the cilantro bunch and discard it. Turn heat to high. Add the preserved lemons, stir in the saffron threads (and salt and pepper if needed, as per taste) and let the whole cook for another minute. Remember, the chicken stock and preserved lemon are usually high on salt, so you should check often to make sure before using more salt.
8. Serve it piping hot on a bed of couscous and side of boiled chickpeas.

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