Tajine

This is my new favourite thing.  This is a tajine, and this is what the girls bought me for Mother’s Day.

I’ve always wanted one.  I bought one once, for my Mum.  I don’t know if she uses it very much.  I bought it for her because I thought she would like it, and because it was the one kitchen item she didn’t already own.

I’m particularly pleased they got me a red one!  And this is a fancy schmancy one, too, which can sit directly onto the gas flame.  But they also got me one of those heat diffusing things so it sits on top of that, on top of the flame.  But if we should ever decide to go camping, I could totally take this along.

I searched online for a recipe and came up with one based on several that I looked at, based on the ingredients I had on hand, and based on one chef’s advice which was to just chuck everything in and cross your fingers.  Apparently that’s what they do in Morocco.

(all photos taken with trusty iPhone)

CHICKEN TAJINE

Chicken pieces (thighs and drumsticks are recommended, but I used chicken thigh fillets, about 750g, chopped in half)

2 teaspoons Morrocan spice mix (I bought some from Essential Ingredient)

Splash of olive oil

Half a bunch of coriander – leaves, stems and roots – finely chopped (reserve some for garnish)

One onion, chopped

One tomato, chopped (I used about 20 cherry tomatoes from the garden)

Two potatoes, cut into wedges and tossed in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of Morrocan spice mix.

One preserved lemon, cut into thin strips.

Couscous

Marinate the chicken pieces in the coriander, spice mix and olive oil for at least two hours, or overnight if possible.

Cover the base of the tajine with the onion and tomato, then pile the chicken on top, like a pyramid.  The onion and tomato prevents the chicken from burning onto the tajine.

Tuck the potato wedges around the edge, place the preserved lemon strips on top, and pour one cup of cold water into the tajine.  Place the lid on top.

I used the simmer mat over a slightly-higher-than-low flame on my gas stove.  Cook for 45 minutes, and never open the lid during the cooking time.

With five minutes to go, make the cous cous according to the directions on the packet.

Put a generous spoonful of couscous into each bowl and top with the chicken and potatoes and sprinkle with coriander.

Lots of steam…

This was incredibly easy to cook.  I didn’t have to stir anything, I just had to pile it all up in the middle of the tajine.  It cooks the food by steaming, so the chicken was incredibly moist and tender.  Some steam and bubbles escaped from one side of the tajine a few times during cooking but otherwise it was well-sealed.  I didn’t know what to expect – the steam escaping surprised me a bit – but I asked the Twitterverse and somebody told me it was normal for some to escape.  So I just left it to sizzle and spit and after about 50 minutes we dished it up with some couscous (one of the Ainsley Harriot packets, just because).  The kids LOVED this which was another bonus.

Next week: Lamb tajine.

UPDATE: I cooked ten organic chicken thigh cutlets (ie on the bone, and they were big) in this tagine, with five large, quartered potatoes and everything else.  The thighs had their skin on so I fried them all over in a frying pan which crisped up the skins really nicely, gave them a lovely brown colour, and also got rid of a LOT of the fat.  They were nowhere near cooked through when I piled them into the tagine and onto the stove.  I was a little concerned at the quantity of chicken – there was probably about 1.75kg – but it all did brilliantly.  A reminder though – it all tastes a LOT better if you marinate the chicken for a few hours first, that REALLY makes a difference.

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