Saturday, April 12, 2008

Morroccan Nights

A couple of years ago I went on a trip to Morocco with a group and our main objective was to climb Mount Toubkal. It took us about 5 or days of trekking through Berber villages before we reached the top (see pictures below). We enjoyed beautiful scenery each day as well as a great sense of fulfillment having reached the summit. We were lucky to have a cook accompany us, and he and his team prepared healthy yet delicious meals for us every day. It was during the month of Ramadan and the cook would prepare all the meals without even tasting them! I especially remember the tagines we would feast on almost every night. I wish I would have asked for recipes before I left, but thank goodness for the Internet! After some research, I was able to find recipes and a real tagine as well.

My tagines! The one on the left I got on and the supplier was Casablanca Market. I used the one on the right for this recipe.

The tagine I used for this recipe was my first tagine and I bought at Sur La Table - its a medium size tagine and serves 3 very hungry people, or else 4 pretty substantially. I love making tagine, because after all the prep and once everything is in the tagine, you just wait patiently as the delicious aromas fill the air! In addition to the yummy tagine and couscous I also subject my friends to Moroccan CD's that I picked up when I was in Marrakesh. All of this and a bottle of red wine and I am transported right back to those magical Moroccan nights!

I googled and found several recipes for making tagine, but the one that I tried and adapted was Bobby Flay's tagine recipe from foodnetwork.

4 smallish chicken thighs with bone (skinless and boneless work as well)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can chickpeas
1 can diced tomatoes
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoons chilli powder (more or less according to your taste)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
A few strands of saffron soaked in 1/4 cup luke warm water for about 10 minutes
1/2 cup of dried apricots cut in half
handful of parsley or cilantro finely chopped
salt and freshly crushed black pepper

Wash chicken and pat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper evenly on both sides and set aside. Next, dice garlic and onion finely, but keep separately. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and pan fry chicken thighs skin side first for a couple of minutes per side till golden brown. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Lower the heat on pan to low to cook the onions. Cook onions till translucent (do not let them brown) stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two. Next add the turmeric and chilli powder and cook for a few more minutes. Turn the heat off and put the tagine on low heat on stove. Add the cooked onion mixture to the tagine. Add the can of diced tomatoes, soaked saffron with the water and stir together. Next add, the cinnamon stick, and canned chickpeas (washed and drained) and apricots and stir together. Nestle the chicken pieces in the tagine, making sure they are covered and also not touching the bottom of the tagine. Increase heat to medium until you see bubbles in the liquid. Next add the tagine lid and lower heat to simmer. Leave on low heat for at least 45 minutes or till ready to eat (not longer than about 1 1/2 hours). Garnish with parsley and serve with couscous. Enjoy!

My first tagine.

Enjoying a lovely picnic lunch while our colorfully dressed donkeys take a rest.

A small town where we enjoyed tagine under the stars while being entertained with traditional berber folk songs being sung by our cook and his team.

Views of the Atlas mountains from the top of Mount Toubkal

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