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.


Lamb tagine

no fast food, only slow food

Seen outside a restaurant on our honeymoon

We served this in vast quantities at our silver wedding party – it went down very well!  It’s the kind of thing that you can leave on a low heat to simmer for ages without it coming to much harm.

• 500g cubed lamb
• 1 onion
• 200g dried apricots, chopped
• 1 400g tin chickpeas, drained
• 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes (or 4 big fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped)
• 1 jar roasted red peppers or 2 fresh Romano peppers, cut into strips
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 250ml stock – veg, chicken, lamb, whatever you have to hand
• 3 heaped teaspoons ras-el-hanout (a Moroccan spice mix) – if you can’t find this, the main ingredients are ginger, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne and black pepper plus dried rose petals, so go wild with your spice jars
• 1 small red chili, chopped finely, to taste
• Salt and pepper

Brown the cubed lamb in the olive oil in a frying pan over a relatively high heat. Drain the meat and put it in an ovenproof casserole dish. Now fry the onions in the remaining oil in the frying pan, over a gentle heat, adding the ras-el-hanout to the mixture along with the chili to taste (there is some cayenne in ras-el-hanout but if you like spicy dishes, just add a bit more chili). Once the onions are nice and soft but not browned, add these to the lamb in the casserole dish. Add the drained tin of chickpeas, the red peppers, the tin of chopped tomatoes and the chopped dried apricots to the casserole. Add about 250ml of hot stock . Give it a good stir and leave it in a low-ish oven or a slow cooker for an hour or two. Add more stock if it looks to be drying out at any time during cooking. Taste and season with salt and pepper and extra chili if it needs it.
Serve with couscous, or flatbreads. This should serve 4…