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Chicken Tagine

We made this for the family after Christmas, when we had all had a few too many turkey sandwiches and needed something with a newer flavour palette and a little lighter. Quick and easy to assemble, then happy to be left alone to cook, it was a hit with the whole family. We left the main pot relatively unspicy but then each added some homemade Scotch Bonnet sauce of my dad's to our own particular tastes. I was really happy with the flavourings in this, and hope you'll enjoy it too.

NB the recipe is for a rather large batch that fed 6 adults double helpings and left the pot still half full, but the leftovers reheated great!


6 chicken legs (Oh! No! Mutant chickens!), separated at the joint

2-3 tbsp olive oil

2 cinnamon sticks + 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

12 cloves + 1 tsp ground cloves

6 threads of saffron

1 - 1 1/2 tsp cumin

6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed

1 tbsp paprika

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp turmeric

1 head of broccoli, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 zucchini, chopped

3 red onions, 6 white, chopped

2 c prunes

1 c raisins

3 400g tins of chickpeas

2 red peppers, 1 green, chopped

4 sticks of celery, chopped

500g mushrooms, chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

2 c tinned tomatoes

6 c chicken stock

500g couscous

1 c barley

Salt to taste

1 c slivered almonds, toasted

1) Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan big enough to accommodate all the chicken in a single layer, and add the spices. Allow these to bloom in the hot oil for a few minutes, then add the chicken pieces. Brown these for a few minutes on each side.

2) Meanwhile, heat an oven-proof dish big enough for all the ingredients in the oven at 180°C.* When the chicken pieces are nicely browned, add them and all ingredients except the lemon juice, the grains and the almonds to the oven-proof dish.

3) Deglaze the pan you browned the chicken in using the lemon juice, and add this to the dish with the rest of the ingredients. Combine everything well and place in the oven, covered, at 180* for about 1 and a half hours, stirring occasionally. When the veg is almost tender, add the grains.

4) Cook for a further half-hour or so until the grains are cooked and the veg is tender. Serve sprinkled with the toasted almonds.

*(I was going to use the same pan to brown the chicken and to cook the tagine but discovered after adding about 1/4 of the veg to the dish that it was far too small, so I used a metal soup pot instead... If you can, using the same one for both makes sense, in which case, skip the heating-the-dish-in-the-oven step.)

I am delighted at how the flavours came out. It was quick and easy to throw together, and a very satisfying meal. The spices are all very warm ones. For those of us who wanted, an added dash of hot sauce added some heat, but it was not necessary, and allowing for individual tweaking like that worked well. It is veggie-packed but was not too heavy, which was a relief after all the rich food around Christmas. In my opinion, there are never enough raisins, chickpeas or prunes... Or chicken, carrots, celery either for that matter. Perhaps why the pot wasn't big enough? Dried apricot would have worked very nicely too, and I don't know if it is culturally appropriate to a tagine, but I had planned on adding some coriander leaves when dishing up, but forgot to put them on the shopping list. Very tasty without though!

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