Marrakshi chicken with preserved lemon

Sam is getting more adventurous with his cooking, and wanted to try a Moroccan-inspired dish. This is what he made – heavily influenced by the chicken tagine served at Leon.

Serves 4

  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic puree (or smoked garlic puree if you can find it)
  • 1 tablespoon ras-el-hanout spice mix
  • 8 small chicken joints, on the bone for preference (thighs are perfect for this, or you can buy a whole chicken and joint it yourself – there’ll be plenty of meat left over on the carcass to make  stew or soup)
  • a few strands of saffron (optional)
  • half a litre of chicken stock
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 4 large preserved lemons or 8 really small ones, enough for about 60g of rinds
  • 50g green olives, stoned and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • salt and black pepper

Peel and chop the onion into thin half-moon slices.  Heat the oil in a large saute pan or casserole dish, and saute the onion in the oil over a medium heat until it is soft but not coloured. Add the garlic puree and the ras-el-hanout, stir it about and enjoy the lovely aromas of the spices as they heat up.  Put in the chicken pieces – you should really take the skin off .  Then add the chickpeas, the saffron and the stock and let it come to a simmer. Leave it simmering for about ten minutes.

Take the preserved lemons and cut them in half. Scoop out the flesh and pips and discard them, then slice up the rinds and add them to the pan along with the chopped olives.  Keep the pan simmering for another ten minutes.

Finish off the dish by adding the creme fraiche. Stir it in and then turn up the heat a bit to reduce the liquid a little – this should take another ten to fifteen minutes.

Incidentally if you use big chicken breast fillets or larger joints, you will need to increase the cooking time to ensure the chicken is cooked through.  Chicken should never be pink!

When you are ready to serve, season it with salt and pepper (it may not need salt because of the stock and the olives) and garnish with some chopped coriander leaves (cilantro to our friends across the Atlantic).  This dish can be served with couscous or rice, and it goes well with dark green vegetables such as broccoli or wilted spinach.  You could also try a mixture of traditional Moroccan braised vegetables such as carrots, courgettes, squash, aubergine and green cabbage.

 

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Spanish puttanesca pasta

IMG_20150912_145640[1]A success from the “oh no there’s nothing in the fridge” school of cooking.  Feeds 4 – ish.

  • 300g wholewheat spaghetti
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • pinch salt
  • 1 large tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 chorizo ring
  • handful of black olives, chopped
  • a splash of red wine, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, or whatever’s around along those lines
  • black pepper
  • grated parmesan

Put the spaghetti into a large pan of boiling water with the olive oil and pinch of salt. Meantime, chop up the chorizo into slices about the width of a pound coin and then cut the slices in half.  Add them to a frying pan (no need for oil) on a medium heat, moving them about so they don’t stick and start releasing the oil.  After a few minutes add the handful of black olives and empty the tin of tomatoes into the pan, stirring everything about.  After a few minutes more taste the sauce and add red wine, or balsamic vinegar, or a pinch of sugar, or whatever you think it might need to brighten up the flavour a bit.  Turn down the heat and let it all simmer together.  Add some black pepper.  Meantime test the pasta.  Wholewheat normally takes about 10 minutes.  When the pasta is ready, take a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water and mix into your sauce.  Drain the pasta and add it to the frying pan with the sauce in it and mix it all together so all the pasta is coated with the sauce.  Serve with grated parmesan to sprinkle over the top.