We live in such a multicultural society that ‘foreign food’ isn’t all that, well, foreign anymore. I know 10-year olds whose favourite foods may be sushi, or an Indian curry or a falafel pita.
Exotic ingredients are very easy to access; heck, even President’s Choice has sauce flavours from around the world to choose from. Therefore, every so often we get a craving for something a little less ordinary, a touch spicy or salty, whether it’s an Asian-inspired dish or our now-favourite: Moroccan cuisine.
Although part of Africa, the north can be defined as an area where couscous (made from the same wheat that makes pasta, semolina) replaces rice as a staple starch. Instant couscous is easily found in grocery stores.
Traditional Moroccan ingredients include olives and olive oil, preserved lemon, hot paste called harissa, garlic, couscous, onions, oranges, dates and figs.
The flavours of Morocco can be defined as mixing savoury with sweet; subtle spices and a refined cuisine.
In this recipe we’ve used our own local bounty flavoured with Moroccan spices, called ‘Ras el Hanout.’ Find all of the spices in the bulk section of the grocery store, this way you can purchase just what you need. And once the spice mix is done, keep it on hand to quickly season chicken pieces, soups, stews or even sautéed shrimp.
Ras el Hanout:
- “Head of the Shop” Moroccan spice blend for tagine, stews, etc.
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1-1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1-1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1-1/12 tsp ground turmeric
- 1-1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
Blend all spices together and use as required.
Moroccan chicken tangine with olives Serves 4
- 3lb chicken pieces
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 pinches saffron
- 1 can chick peas
- 1 small eggplant, cut into half- inch cubes
- 1 large can of whole tomatoes
- 4 carrots, large dice
- 4 small zucchini, diced
- 1/4 cup currants
- 1-1/2 tbsp Ras el Hanout
- 1/2 cup olives
- 1/2 cup toasted almonds
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a tagine or heavy dutch oven (Le Cruset) over medium high heat. Brown chicken in batches, remove from pot and set aside;
Deglaze pot with 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Add saffron to 1/4 cup of warm water, allow to sit and infuse for 1-2 minutes, set aside;
Melt butter in the same pot and add onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Add saffron-infused water. And simmer 1-2 minutes longer;
Add Ras el Hanout and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant. Add chick peas, eggplant, carrot, tomatoes and remaining chicken stock. Return chicken to pot and cover. Allow to cook for 15 minutes over low heat;
Remove breast meat, cover and set aside. Add zucchini and currants and continue to cook for another 10 minutes;
Return chicken breast to pot to re-heat. Serve on a bed of couscous with olive and toasted almonds.
Chefs Kirstie Herbstreit and Jody O’Malley are both Red Seal certified chefs. Together they run the company YouCanCook2, specializing in interactive dinner parties. You can also find them cooking at Entertaining Elements in St. Jacobs,where they hold private dinners for eight people. To contact the chefs, visit their website www.youcancook2.com.