Moroccan cuisine has had influences of Spain, Africa and the Mediterranean foods. They also use the word Berber people, which have French influence. Traditionally the food is cooked in a tagine/ tajine cooking pot made of pottery, a historically Berber North Africa dish. The Berbers for the dishes like tagine and couscous. The Arab invasion brought new spices, nuts and dried fruits. The moors introduced olives, and olive juice. The citrus, the Jewish Moors left behind their sophisticated preserving techniques preserved lemons and pickles. The tagine pot is used in North Africa and as well as the Middle East. It consists of two parts. A base unit that is flat and circular with low sides and a large cone shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. Less liquid is used in a tagine, deriving the most of its liquid from the ingredients. The water formed is turned into vapour, which condenses on the inside of the lid of the tagine, and runs down the sides to the edges of the tagine bottom, and not dropped onto the meat or vegetable. Tagine cooking may be replicated by using a slow cooker.
Their stew are mostly served with couscous. A Berber North Africa dish of small steamed balls of semolina. Properly cooked couscous is light and fluffy, not gummy or gritty. Traditionally North Africans use a food steamer called taseksut in Berber. And the Arab calls it kiskas or couscoussier in French. The base is a tall metal pot shaped rather like an oil jar in which the meat and vegetables are cooked as a stew. On top of the base, a steamer sits where the couscous is cooked, absorbing the flavours from the stew. The lid to the steamer has holes around its edge so steam can escape. The couscous that is sold in most western supermarket has been pre-steamed and dried and so only needs the addition of hot water.
Ras-El-Hanout is a morocco spice mix. An Arabic name translated as ‘Head of the shop’. An expression which actually means the best of the shop. Spices are used extensively in Moroccan dishes. Although spices have been imported to morocco through the Arabs for thousands of years. The spice blend are the essential spices ingredient use for a kick and Smokey taste for rice, marinade or as an aromatic for tagine. It add great flavours to Moroccan dishes. Moroccan seasoning blend can be found on line and in many large supermarkets.
Moroccan seasoning mix Ras-El-Hanout
– 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
– 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
– 1 teaspoon of salt
– 1 tablespoon of ground paprika
– 1 tablespoon of ground nutmeg
– 1 tablespoon of turmeric
– ¾ teaspoon of black pepper
– ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
– ½ teaspoon ground coriander
– ½ teaspoon cayenne
– ½ teaspoon ground all spice
– ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Mix spices together and store in an airtight jar.
Ingredients for the chicken stew
– 2 chicken breast fillet cut into cubes
– 4 tablespoon of Olive oil
– ½ tinned of chickpeas, drained
– 2 medium onion chopped
– 4 garlic cloves chopped
– 1 tablespoon of grated ginger
– 1 one inch cinnamon stick
– 2 bay leaves
– ½ tablespoon of chilli flakes(optional)
– 10 dried apricots, cut into quarters
– 14 green olives, stoned
– ½ preserves lemon, chopped, or a few squeezes of lemon juice
– 2 tablespoon of honey
– Handful of chopped coriander
– 300ml of vegetable stock or vegetable stock cube diluted in hot water.
– 2 tablespoon of Ras-El-Hanout blend
– Salt to taste
I’m using an electric tagine to cook my dish. You can still make it in a casserole pan, in a slow cooker or if you using a tagine on the stove.
Preheat the tagine and add the olive oil. When the oil is heated stir the onion, garlic and ginger, cover to cook for 20 min.
After the onion has soften add the chicken and cover to cook for 25 min, turning occasionally.
Then add the spices Ras-El-Hanout blend and cinnamon stick, bay leaves. Stir for 5 min then add the chickpeas, dried apricots, with the preserves lemon, olives and the honey, cover with the vegetable stock.
Let it simmer for 45 min till the chicken is cooked through. Add little of water if the chicken becomes dry. And when the chicken is tender if there is too much liquid, remove the lid and continue to cook until the sauce is reduces.
Briefly stir in the chopped coriander and serve with the cooked couscous or basmati rice.