Tagines and dreams. Moroccan chicken vs Tom Cruise…

You remember the ad right? Turning down a date with Tom Cruise, to stay home and enjoy a good lamb roast. Well, over the weekend I had the Moroccan version of a reason to turn down a date with Tom Cruise (or Matt Damon, or Dan Carter or whoever it might be…).

It all began with my purchase of a long coveted piece of terracotta. A tagine. The word ‘tagine’ refers not only to the actual North African stew dish, but also to the unique funnelled pot it’s cooked in. Funky looking kitchenware, to slow cook in? Count me in.

I’ve wanted one for quite some time, to the point where I actually gave one to some friends as a wedding present, hoping I would collect… I really am quite a regular at giving the gift I would like to receive myself, in the vain hope that I will also benefit from the gift given. And benefit I did. Shortly after my friends had returned from their honeymoon, they ‘invited’ me for dinner (*read as* I invited myself for dinner, preferably a tagine thanks…!) and served up a spectacular lamb tagine. And though I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, it only made me want my own tagine even more…

So, when I received a Christmas voucher (thanks Websters!) to Alfresco Emporium at Collaroy, I knew exactly what I was going buy…

Isn’t it one of the prettiest things you’ve ever seen? People obviously think so, coz the lady behind the counter asked me if I was buying it for display purposes or for cooking purposes… Um…

All I wanted to do was get it home and get in on the stove, but it isn’t that easy and I had to “season” it first. The seasoning process begins by immersing the tagine in water for 24 hours. The only vessel large enough in my house to immerse my new toy…?

After it spent a night in my bath, I rubbed it with oil, put it into a cold oven and turned it on to 120°C for an hour and a half. Left to cool, I then rinsed with warm soapy water. Then? Good to go.

It seemed fitting to share my first attempt at tagine cooking with my old friend Jamie, so I selected a Chicken, Olive and Preserved Lemon Tagine from the Moroccan chapter of his Jamie Does… book.

Firstly I marinated the chicken thigh cutlets with a paste of oil, S&P, ground cumin, ground ginger and crushed coriander seeds.

While the chicken was marinating, I gathered all my other ingredients… And took a photo. With the tagine. Just coz I think it’s so damn nice to look at!

Yes, it’s normal to be in love with a piece of cookware…

After a few hours of marinating (no doubt overnight would have been better, but I was impatient to start cooking!), I added the chicken, skin side down, to a hot oily pot. Turning after about five minutes, I then added in a large fennel bulb, chopped into eighths, a chopped onion, a finely sliced garlic clove and the stalks of a coriander bunch all chopped up. Fried for a few minutes, I then mixed in some chopped preserved lemons (preserved at home during my big citrus winter last year), some black olives, a pinch of saffron and a cup of stock.

After a good stir, I carefully placed the funnelled lid on top, turned it down to a low heat and left it to it’s own magical devices for a couple of hours. The smell in my apartment was absolutely to die for – sweet (saffron) and tangy (lemon) – and I couldn’t help but take the odd peak.

After about an hour and a half, I took the lid off and let it simmer uncovered while I prepared some cous cous. The sauce thickened slightly and the meat was falling off the bone.

Cous cous perfectly fluffed, I served up my first tagine.

A sexy Saturday night dinner for one. And I wouldn’t have traded it for all the celebrity dates in the world. Not even if a newly single Ashton Kutcher was knocking at my door… Maybe…

And even if he was, I could serve him a pretty funky Moroccan feast. I’ve just popped into the fridge for the night, a few chicken thighs, sitting in a ginger and cinnamon marinade. Me? Obsessed? Never…



About Tablecloths & Talking

Food. Friends. Fun. Preferably together. I love to eat, drink & be merry. I love to write. Tablecloths & Talking is me writing about doing the things I love.
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3 Responses to Tagines and dreams. Moroccan chicken vs Tom Cruise…

  1. genevieve says:

    wow. lizzie, i am wildly impressed by you and your tagine. to be honest, despite my culinary background and experience, i’ve always been a little bit terrified of the tagine….friends have marvelled and raved over the wonders of this cooking experience but i have waved them off with a ‘whatever, give me my slow cooker any day’. but. you have inspired me beyond words. i now look forward to my own tagine joy with much anticipation and excitement.

  2. Thanks Gen. I wasn’t sure if it would be as easy as it seemed, but it was! Hence round two marinating in the fridge as we speak. I am so excited. And I can’t wait to do it for a dinner party and bring it to the table to serve. It will be gorgeous! Do yourself a favour Gen and get a tagine!

  3. Cath says:

    how does one score an invite to that dinner party? yummo, looks (and sounds) amazing!

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