Moroccan Mains: Chicken & Couscous

tumeric chicken

Moroccan Chicken

Serves 8
Ingredients:

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast meat – cubed
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon salt
olive oil
2 onions, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, diced
4 carrots, sliced ¼” rounds
4 stalks celery, sliced ¼” rounds
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained
2 zucchini, sliced ½” rounds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat adding a little olive oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and brown in the saucepan until almost cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Sauté the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in same pan. When tender, stir in ginger, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and turmeric; stir fry for about 1 minute, then mix in broth and tomatoes. Return chicken to pan, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add chickpeas and zucchini to pan and bring to a simmer once again; cover pan and cook for about 15 minutes, or until zucchini is cooked through and tender. Stir in lemon juice and serve over the rice, plain couscous or the delicious couscous recipe below.

CouscousMoroccan Couscous

Ingredients:

1 ¼ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 red, green, or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
2 zucchinis, halved lengthwise and cut into ¾” pieces
½ cup golden raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
grated zest of one orange
1 540ml can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup orange juice
1 ½ cups couscous
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint*

Directions:

Place a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir in the cumin, ginger, cloves, cayenne, cardamom, coriander, and allspice; gently toast until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in oil and onion, cook until softened. Stir in the bell pepper, and zucchini; cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the raisins, salt, zest, and garbanzos. Pour in the chicken broth and orange juice; turn heat to high and bring to a boil. When the mixture is boiling, stir in the couscous and remove from heat; cover, and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and fold in chopped mint.

*To learn how to inspect fresh mint, click here.

Happy Birthday Mamma!

Happy Birthday

Okay, for those who might not yet have figured it out, it’s my mom’s birthday today! Happy 29th Mom! Okay, so she’s not 29, ’cause that would make me… well, impossible, but that is beside the point. The real point is that it’s her birthday and she should be celebrated! Last night she got to go to the symphony and this weekend she will be surrounded by most of her children for Shabbous (the ones who live in the city, those that live out of town… well, you’re just not trying hard enough!) One of the birthday traditions that my family has is the Friday night (or the whole Shabbous if you’re lucky) closest to your birthday you get to plan the menu. It is made up of your favourite foods, regardless of what they are. Regardless I say! Yes, so when it was my little cousin’s birthday, and his favourite food was chicken nuggets and french fries from a certain fast food establishment, my mother went out an got Styrofoam containers and ketchup packets so she could dish up “happy-meals” of her own for his birthday meal. Now while my mother’s tastes are slightly more refined than mystery “chicken” in the shape of a “nugget” (exactly where on the bird is a nugget found?) She does always make a request for beef-a-roni. The quintessential comfort food of pasta, tomato sauce and ground beef that you just can’t resist. Fortunately for me, and my week’s theme, my mother also loves Moroccan dishes, and will not be insulted if instead of a pasta recipe, I post today one for a exotic, flavourful chicken to be served with a couscous chocked full of vegetables and North African spices. Knowing my Mom, she’d be just as happy, knowing that she didn’t have to cook either one :) Happy Birthday Mom! I love you!

The World of Moroccan Cuisine

Spice Market

Displaying influences from Africa, Arabia, and the Mediterranean, the Moroccan cuisine of today is a reflection of the country’s colourful past, blended with the culinary traditions of both its Arab and Berber inhabitants. Over time, these influences have been refined into a distinctly Moroccan flavor — thanks largely to centuries of imperial dynasties, where expectations and demands weighed heavily on the chefs of the royal courts, and thus inspired both experimentation and extravagance.

Moroccan cooking is strongly characterized by the subtle blending of spices, and Moroccans expertly use them to enhance, rather than mask, the flavor and fragrance of their dishes. Spices such as cayenne, saffron, chilies, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cumin, paprika, and black pepper are all commonplace in Morocco, as is a special blend of spices called ras el hanout, translated as “head of the shop,” which is usually a mixture of between 10 and 30 different spices. Traditionally the proprietor of each spice shop sold his own unique — and secret — ras el hanout recipe. Fresh herbs are also present in Moroccan dishes, particularly garlic, coriander, parsley, and mint, as are fragrant additions such as orange or rose water, olives, and olive oil. Harissa, a fiery paste of garlic, chilies, olive oil, and salt, is often used as a condiment. Above all else, perhaps the defining characteristic of Moroccan cuisine is the blending of savory with sweet, most commonly witnessed by the addition of fruit to meat tagines.

Here is a quick version of Ras El Hanout that you can whip up to add a warm, exotic taste to your dishes:

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon ground coriander seed
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Directions:

Mix salt, cumin, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, white pepper, coriander, cayenne pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves in a small bowl until evenly blended. Store in an airtight container up to 1 month.

This can be used as a rub on meat, poultry or fish, or as a seasoning for rice or couscous. You’re really only limited by your imagination. So let your imagination soar, and get lost in the Moroccan spice markets today!