I had my first real taste of Moroccan food when travelling through the country with scouts in my late teens. I had a few culinary surprises, such as accidentally ordering a goat’s brain sandwich, and taking a big gulp of what I thought was milk, only to find that it was an extremely sour  fermented drink which, when finally managed to force it down, was enthusiastically refilled by my hostess. However I was also introduced to the delights of Tagine, that glorious slow-cooked Berber dish with meat, fruit and spices.

I don’t have a traditional Moroccan Tagine pot, but I’ve found that a slow-cooker makes a very good alternative. Tagine is usually served with bread, but I find that spiced and fruited cous-cous makes an excellent accompaniment. I usually double the quantities and serve it on those days when I’m going to be out all day but have guests coming for dinner.

Ingredients (serves 5):

For the tagine:

  • 3 large chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 onions, diced
  • large squirt of garlic puree
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 100ml hot chicken stock
  • carrots, cut into 2 cm lengths
  • sweet potato, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 cubes frozen minced ginger or 2 cm minced fresh ginger root or 1 tbsp ground dried ginger
  • 150g whole dried apricots
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp runny honey 
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon or a 2cm cinnamon stick, roughly broken
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • a handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

For the couscous:

  • 300ml dried couscous
  • 300ml hot chicken stock
  • 100g dried apricots, diced
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • a handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Method

Fry the chicken pieces in the oil until golden, and put them in the slow cooker with the drained chickpeas. Then fry the onions in the garlic puree and any left over olive oil until soft, and sprinkle on the flour to soak up the juices. Gradually add the stock, stirring to remove any lumps of flour. Add all the rest of the ingredients except for the fresh coriander and bring it to simmering point, stirring well. Tip this into the slow cooker and stir well to combine. Cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for about 7 hours. When ready to eat, stir in half of the coriander and scatter the rest on the top.

To make the couscous, simply mix all the dry ingredients in a large serving bowl, pour over the stock and lemon juice, cover and leave for 10 minutes. Then fluff up the couscous with a fork just before serving.

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