Tag Archives: Morocco

Chicken Tagine

This is another recipe that takes us right back to Marrakech. We spent a spectacular last night of our holiday eating on the roof terrace of a glorious restaurant near our riad (Le Foundouk, recommended by those wonderful people at Lonely Planet). We had read that it was beautiful with a gorgeous, romantic roof terrace but we weren’t quite prepared for the candlelit terrace, draped in scented plants which gave tables privacy while the stars twinkled overhead. Bird chose a traditional chicken tagine made with preserved lemons, olives and onions and this is what we have tried to recreate here (although not quite in the epic proportions it was served in Marrakech… a tiny Bird cannot eat half a large chicken!).

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 4 small portions of chicken (we used bone in thighs for great flavour)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium white onions, chopped into strips
  • 2 preserved lemons, deseeded and finely chopped
  • A large handful of olives (black or green are fine, we used black kalamata olives)
  • 1 heaped tsp of Ras el Hanout or Baharat spice mix
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • (optional: a pinch of saffron strands – these really do add a honeyed flavour to the dish and beautiful colour but don’t worry if you don’t have any, it will still be lovely!)
  • Enough chicken stock to cover
These little strands of saffron are magical!
These little strands of saffron are magical!

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Heat the olive oil in a casserole dish over a medium heat and once shimmering add in the chicken pieces skin side down and brown. Once they have some colour turn them over to briefly seal on the other side and then remove from the pan. Add in the chopped onions and turn the heat down to as low as it goes. Cook the onions for at least 5 minutes so they are starting to take on some of the brown colour from the chicken and to soften. After this time add in the spices and cook for a further minute until they are aromatic and the coriander seeds are beginning to pop. Make up around half a litre of chicken stock and put the saffron strands in to infuse if you’re using them.

We kept the stones in the olives, it's much easier. If you do the same then make sure everyone is aware of it!
We kept the stones in the olives, it’s much easier. If you do the same then make sure everyone is aware of it!

Throw in all of the rest of the ingredients aside from the chicken, stir to combine and then pop the chicken on top, skin side up so it is just poking out of the liquid (you may need to top up the liquid with some water). Unlike a British or French type of stew Moroccan ones aren’t generally thickened in our experience, instead they come with a light liquid which is perfectly mopped up with cous cous so don’t worry if it looks a bit sloppy, it’s meant to! Put the casserole dish in the oven and cook for around 1 hour, making sure to give it a prod about halfway through the cooking time. Serve simply with plain cous cous and some chopped fresh parsley and/or coriander if you wish.

Leave the chicken poking above the liquid, so that it goes nice and crispy
Leave the chicken poking above the liquid, so that it goes nice and crispy
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Moroccan Lamb Meatballs

Ah Marrakech! Looking back it was definitely one of the best weekends of our lives, but on first arrival it was shit scary! We landed at about 7pm and because it was March it was pretty dark already. Our riad had organised a taxi driver to meet us, but we couldn’t find him for ages, so it was fully dark by the time we had our stuff in the car and were hurtling along. The rules on the roads in Marrakech seem to be “Whoever is biggest has the right of way” which makes for a pretty hairy ride! Suddenly the taxi pulled over on the main ring road outside the Medina walls and tried to make a phone call. Having failed, and stabbing at his phone again he got out of the taxi to try again. We started to get a little shifty at this point, he’d offered no explanation and we had no idea what was going on.

He got back in the taxi and we asked him (in a mix of not brilliant French and sign language) if we were going to the riad, and he said that he was trying to call the owner but couldn’t reach him (at least that’s what we think he said – at this stage there was a lingering suspicion that he might have been trying to get a good price for us…). Not a great sign. We carried on and were soon in the maze of streets that make up the medina, most of which looked far too small to accommodate a car. After a few wrong turns we ended up parked in the middle of what looked like a small market, where once again the taxi driver got out of the car to make a phone call. The people out on the streets were trying to open the car doors – one of them tried to usher us towards his riad (not ours!) – and we were sufficiently freaked out by this point. Then the car door opened and a there stood Thierry, the owner of the riad! We were so relieved and felt pretty stupid for getting so anxious.

Stepping into the riad we were blown away. After entering through an ancient but unassuming door off a side street suddenly we were in a candlelit courtyard with trees, rooms off each side, a mezzanine level… it was amazing. We were shown around our suite (first time in a suite!) and then taken through to have dinner which was waiting for us.

Bird's eye view of our beautiful riad - can you spot the tortoise?
Bird’s eye view of our beautiful riad – can you spot the tortoise?

After a starter of red pepper and olive salad a beautiful tagine pot came out, containing what we have tried to recreate (fairly successfully!) in this recipe. Juicy little spiced lamb meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce topped with baked egg and served with cous cous.

Ingredients (for 2 hungry people):

  • 250g lamb mince
  • Baharat or Ras el Hanout spice mix
  • 1 small white onion, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 500g passata
  • 1-3 tsp of harissa – different brands have very different spice levels
  • 2 eggs
  • Cous cous
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Add the sliced onion and pepper to a saucepan over a low heat with a dash of olive oil and leave to soften and sweat down, stirring occasionally. Mix the lamb mince with around 1 heaped tsp of whichever spice mix you are using and about 1/2 tsp of salt, using your hands to really squish it together and distribute the spices around. Then roll into small meatballs, using around 1 tsp of mixture per meatball.

Rotational symmetry optional.
Rotational symmetry optional.

Turn your attention back to the onion and pepper which should be softened by now and add in 1 tsp of the spice mix, the harissa and the passata. Let this heat up and then spread 1 spoonful of it over the base of an ovenproof dish, not much at all, just enough to cover the base. Then add in your meatballs and cover them with the rest of the sauce. Pop this in the oven. Very lightly whisk two eggs with a little salt and pepper, and then once the meatballs have been in the oven for 15 minutes pour this gently over the top. Try to be extremely careful with this or it will fall out in one big blob and won’t cook properly!

Meatball2

Put it back in the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking and then serve with some lemon cous cous and salad.

Baked meatballs

We made this recipe up after having it that first night in the riad, and we think it’s a pretty successful recreation!

The view from the roof terrace of our riad, one of the best views in Marrakech!
The view from the roof terrace of our riad, one of the best views in Marrakech!

Moroccan Lamb Steaks

Earlier this year Bird and I took a trip to Morocco and were absolutely blown away by the food!  This lamb dish uses harissa and ras el-hanout to evoke the flavours of Marrakech.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 lamb steaks (we used boneless leg steaks)
  • About 200g couscous
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 pepper
  • ½ red onion
  • ½ lemon
  • ~2 tsp harissa paste (to taste – different brands have different intensities)
  • 2 tsp ras el hanout
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Firstly, mix together the harissa paste, 1 tsp of the ras el hanout, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper, and just enough olive oil to make a sauce, and use this to marinate the lamb.  We left our lamb steaks to marinate for about 2 hours.  While the lamb is marinating, chop up the veg and put it in an oven dish along with a good drizzle of olive oil, the rest of the ras el hanout and some seasoning.  Put this in the oven to roast for about 45 minutes.

Fats Possibly my favourite piece of cookware!
Fats Possibly my favourite piece of cookware!

When the veg has about 15 minutes left to roast, put a griddle pan onto a high heat.  Once it has heated up, put the lamb steaks in.  Be careful not to move them around too much while they’re cooking, as you want nice char-grilled lines on your steak from the griddle pan – they don’t just look good!  Depending on the thickness of your meat a nicely blushing steak will take between 3 and 5 minutes per side, adding on a couple of minutes per side for a well done steak. Leave the steaks to rest for a couple of minutes once they’re done.

It's such a shame the smell of the ras el hanout doesn't make it across the interweb
It’s such a shame the smell of the ras el hanout doesn’t make it across the interweb

Lastly, cook the couscous – about the same volume of water to couscous, and squeeze half the lemon in for a bit of flavour.  Cover it to keep the steam in once the water has been added, and when it is done run a fork through it to lighten it up a bit.

Moroccan Lamb Done

That’s pretty much all there is to it!  We fell in love with the smells and tastes of Marrakech, and this takes us right back there.  We have a few more Moroccan dishes up our sleeves, and can’t wait to share them with everyone.

Nothing can prepare you for the streets of Marrakech.  We'll be back!
Nothing can prepare you for the streets of Marrakech. We’ll be back!