Chicken Tagine with Couscous

• 1 whole chicken
• 1 large onion, finely chopped in a food processor
• 4 garlic cloves, crushed
• 100 gm butter
• 1 tablespoon ground ginger (dried powdered)
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
• 3/4 teaspoon saffron strands
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice
• 100 gm green olives (de-stoned)
• 1 handful flat-leaf parsley
• 1 handful fresh coriander
• Lemon slices for decoration

• 100 gm couscous per person
• 1 teaspoon dried cumin seeds
• 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
• Enough boiling water to just cover the couscous
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• Juice of 1/2 lemon, squeezed

I came across this recipe from Rick Stein in an old copy of Food Illustrated magazine. I confess I embarked on it with some trepidation … for although Rick Stein is the local hero of Cornwall (southwest England) and an acclaimed international chef, he is generally more famed for his fish dishes. Secondly, not having cooked many tagines before, the combination of ingredients involving slowly cooking raw minced onion with tons of butter seemed a little odd. Yet as with all good recipes involving ingredients that separately you hold at arm’s length but when combined together make unbelievably delicious flavours, such as those in Thai cooking, this recipe, too, dazzled with all the panache of a film star! And, direct from the pot, it is extraordinarily easy to make!

The basis of tagine cooking is the slow tenderizing of the meat. Traditionally, a dish from North Africa is cooked on slow burning coals in a ceramic clay pot. The dish was designed to cook with a minimal amount of water retaining the juices of the ingredients and through the slow cooking optimizing the flavours therein. However, if you don’t have the clay pot, you can just use a heavy-based casserole dish or stainless-steel pot in which a chicken will comfortably fit. What is important is to ensure that you cook the dish slowly.

Add the chicken to the pan with the butter, garlic, minced onion and dried spices. Cover with tightly fitting lid, bring to the boil and the simmer for 40 minutes, spooning and turning the chicken from time to time to make sure it does not dry out. Remove the chicken, cover and leave to rest.

Add the lemon juice to the sauce and increase the heat once more. Allow to reduce by 2/3 (two-thirds). Return the chicken to the pan along with the olives and simmer for a further 20-25 minutes until the chicken is tender. Add the chopped herbs just before serving.

Place the ingredients for the couscous in a ceramic bowl. About 10 minutes before serving, add boiling water to just cover the couscous by about 1/3 of a finger. Stir.

Add the olive oil and lemon juice and stir again.

Carve the chicken and place on top of the couscous, garnished with the herbs and lemon slices and enjoy.

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