Sweet – savory Moroccan chicken tagine with caramelized apricots, almonds & orange blossom

15/09/20204passionfood

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4 people :

I have always said that cuisine reflects the culture, traditions and even history of each country.  And while preparing this article, I myself learned new things about the history of my country.

Throughout its history, Morocco has been a crossroads of civilizations: Berber, Arab-Andalusian, Jewish, European, Ottoman.

Pastilla, for example, which is pronounced “bastilla” in Morocco, is a dish very popular especially at weddings and special events . According to Anny Gaul (American historian of food specialist in the Arabic-speaking world): “If you look at the written records and the recipes that we have from Al-Andalus, you find that there were dishes  very similar to Bastilla. There are a few things that suggest this dish is of Andalusian origin, In particular the combination of ingredients and spices. However, the Andalusian roots are not enough to explain everything about the history of the dish.The way that the pigeon, eggs, herbs and spices are cooked today is the same as the way made in Al-Andalus, according to the recipes we have.  Nevertheless, the way it is wrapped in “werqa” (sheet of Brick a kind of spring roll dough) was most likely added later, as we have no evidence that this type of very thin dough was used in Al-Andalus ”. What according to Anny Gaul can be explained by the influence of the Ottoman Empire, “the Werqa” (brick sheet) used to wrap the Pastilla, “is very similar to that used for Baklava and in a few other Turkish sweets”.

“There is also Ghriba, which can be found in Egypt and Lebanon, and this is probably traveled with the Islamic Empire “, I think here she is referring to” Ghriba Bahla غريبة بهلة “. There is also the example of Trid, which is another dish brought to Morocco with the Arab Islamic conquest.  It is very similar to a dish called Tharid, which comes from the Arabian Peninsula.

Moving on to tagine, this emblematic dish of Maghreb cuisine which is of Berber origin, and which designates this terracotta dish in which food is cooked.  The pointed shape of the lid has been designed to allow cooking without water, vegetables and meat, which are thus stewed which allows all the flavors of the food to be preserved. There are a lot of tagine recipes that contain meat, vegetables, or even sweet and savory, the ones I like the most.

 And to digest it all, a good glass of mint tea (atay اتاي in Moroccan), which is served at any time of the day.  A true art of living, which however in the past was reserved for the sultans and nobles

 According to Wiki Morocco is today one of the largest tea importers in the world.  Because tea is not cultivated in Morocco, it usually comes from China.  But according to history it was the British who introduced it to Morocco during the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismail.

I cannot end without talking about Latifa Benanni-Smires, the first Moroccan woman to write a Moroccan cookbook called Moroccan cuisine, launched in 1970, was reissued in 2001. She defends good family cooking.  A book that my mom kept preciously. According to her, Moroccan recipes vary little from one region to another.  

Now that you have a bit of a long idea, I admit it 😅, about the history of Moroccan cuisine, let’s go to the recipe of the day.  A delicious tagine with chicken, caramelized apricots, almonds and orange blossom.

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Sweet - savory Moroccan chicken tagine with caramelized apricots, almonds & orange blossom

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Serves: 4 people :

Ingredients :

Marinade :

  • 4 chicken thighs , or 1 kg whole chicken cut into pieces
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • salt & black pepper

The sauce :

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onion , finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander , powder
  • 1/2 tsp ginger, powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp saffron
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tsp Moroccan preserved butter, “Smen “ (Moroccan salted butter optional)
  • salt and black pepper

Caramelized dried apricots:

  • 150 g apricots , dried
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder

Assembly:

  • almonds, peeled and fried

Method :

  • 1)

    In a bowl or container with a lid, mix all the ingredients for the marinade, massage the chicken thighs well with this mixture.  Place your container in the refrigerator and marinate your chicken thighs for at least 2 hours, but ideally overnight.

  • 2)

    Heat the olive oil in a heavy based casserole pot, or directly in a tagine dish if you have. Add chopped onions with the cinnamon stick, the cardamom and a little of salt. Once the onions are translucent, add the marinated chicken thighs, as well as the spices, salt and pepper. Sear the chicken thighs for about 5 minutes on each side, so that they colour well on both sides, before adding boiling water (about 300 ml).
    Cover and cook for about 45 minutes (depending on the size of the thighs) or until the thighs are cooked and tender.

     

     

     

     

  • 3)

    Then remove the chicken thighs to place them in a baking dish.  Brush your chicken thighs with a little butter and let them brown for a few minutes. (This step is optional, especially if you have taken care to brown the chicken thighs well before adding water).
    Meanwhile, remove the cover and cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the sauce has thickened. Don’t forget to remove the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods.

  • 4)

    While the chicken cooks, prepare the caramelized apricots:
    In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil before adding the dried apricots.  Leave to cook for 1 minutes, the apricots must be tender but not mashedor over cooked. Drain the apricots, then return them to the pan. Add  the butter, cinnamon, honey and orange blossom, stir for 3 minutes on each side, so that the apricots caramelize and soak up the sauce.  Remove from the heat, set aside until ready to serve.

  • 5)

    When ready to serve, place the sauce at the bottom of your tagine or serving plate, arrange on top of the chicken thighs, garnish all around with caramelized apricots and finally sprinkle with fried almonds.

Tricks & Tips :

  1. If you don’t have a tagine dish, you can use a cast iron casserole dish or just a pot.
  2. You can replace the chicken with lamb or veal.
  3. General rule: cumin is not used in sweet – savory tagines and couscous, and contrary to popular belief cinnamon and cumin are not constantly used in Moroccan dishes.
  4. You can serve this Tagine with bread or couscous.

Nutrition

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