Friday, 8 March 2013

Friday Night Dilemma

By the end of the working week, even a cook-from-scratch advocate like myself needs a night off. Usually, Friday night is M&S night. I really look forward to my lunchtime sashay around Marks and Spencer’s Food Hall, searching out the Dine In offers.

However, today was too busy for me to step foot out of the door, so I was faced with a ‘throw together’ dinner option. I rifled through the fridge and came up with some chicken thigh fillets, an onion and a red pepper. Not a bad start. I could make a hundred and one dishes from that but what did I fancy. Curry? Paella? Pasta? Then my eyes fell on my tagine. Moroccan it was. I goggled a recipe, threw the ingredients I had together, changed a couple, all in double quick time, then chucked it in the oven whilst we whizzed off for a doctor’s appointment.

My trusty Tagine. A tenner from TK Maxx. Usually retails at around £30

The smell when I opened the front door was amazing and I was immediately transported to exotic, mesmerising Tangier. I served the tagine with lemon and parsley couscous and warmed pitta breads. The result was a perfumed, delicately spiced dish of warming loviness. Why not give it try yourself and let me know what you think.

The original recipe calls for green olives but the Teen doesn’t like them, so I used ready to eat prunes and apricots. I didn’t have any preserved lemons, that feature a lot in North African cuisine, so I used freshly grated lemon zest. The ingredient that gives this dish its authentic flavour is ras-el-hanout. It is the Arabic for ‘head of the shop’ and in the spice market would traditionally be blended by the shop owner from his best spices. Each shop had its own version so there is no definitive recipe. I bought mine from my local supermarket, Morrison’s and the brand is Al Fez. It contains the wonderfully delicate scents of rose petals and lavender, the zing of black pepper and galangal and the warmth of clove and nutmeg.


My Quick Chicken Tagine
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
4/6 chicken thigh fillets
1 tsp Al Fez ras-el-hanout

2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 ready-to-eat apricots, chopped in half
6 ready-to-eat prunes, chopped in half1 tsp  ground ginger
Freshly reshly ground black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp dried parsley
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
A few shakes of Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce

Heat the oven to 160°C, 140° Fan (fan assisted), 325°F or Gas Mark 3. Rub the Al Fez ras-el-hanout on to the chicken thighs and set aside. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the onions and peppers. Fry gently until soft but not brown. Add the chicken and seal on all sides. Add the remaining ingredients and fry for another couple of minutes. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, pour on enough boiling water to just cover the chicken and pop in to the oven for 40/50 minutes.  

The finished result.

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