I’m a bit of a fraud with this recipe. I made all of it, but have had real trouble getting ‘real’ couscous and not the instant stuff, so I did make the couscous, but the cheating way, not the way described in the recipe. I definitely need to head down to the Middle Eastern Grocery stores so I can have some on hand. So that’s why there are no photos of the couscous!
I’ve been looking lovingly at this recipe since I bought “In The Mix” and every time I’ve had the opportunity to make it, my parents have been coming around for dinner. My Dad is strictly old-school and will not touch chicken or poultry of any description – or so he says. He’s happily eaten it when he is guest in someone’s home, or if we tell him it’s something else – so it’s definitely a mind over matter thing – but my mother has now spent 56 years making a carpet bag steak for him for his Christmas Dinner while the rest of us eat turkey. And I think Master 3 can be difficult to please!! I had thought about just making it and telling him it was rabbit, but the potential guilt complex got the better of me.
I have been the owner of a tagine for about 10 years, but I have never – ever – used it. It is sitting on the top of my fridge down at the beach in pristine condition. I love the idea of cooking in a tagine, but just never got around to it, so I wanted to give this recipe a go. This recipe is from Cath Claringbold, who is an amazing chef who specialises in Middle Eastern food, amongst many other things. I’ve been lucky enough to eat at a few of her restaurants and they have all been amazing.
This would be a really great dish for entertaining a group of people, or if you were going to bring a dish to a gathering of some kind. Although the recipe says it serves 4-6, my TM bowl was almost filled to overflowing, and I’m sure we have had at least six generous serves from it. I’m sure that I’ll bring one to our next family ‘bring something along’ gathering, and see if Dad eats it then!
I made the harissa paste required for this recipe a few weeks ago and popped it in the freezer for when I had the occasion to make this. Although your local herb and spice shop will think you’ve gone mad with the quantity of cumin and coriander you buy for both the paste and the tagine, it really is worth it. The paste freezes well although next time I’d freeze it in smaller blocks rather than one big chunk – ice cubes worth would be great. Dani even recommends using the harissa in a Bloody Mary in place of tobasco – I’ll have to give that a go!
The harissa paste is dead easy. I’d always been a little afraid of roasting capsicums, but I bit the bullet and did it in the oven. I left them in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning them once, and made sure when they were pretty scorched, then put them in a ziplock bag and let them sweat and cool, and then the skin peeled right off. Even thought it might be tempting, don’t rinse them under water to get the skin off, as you’ll dilute the roasted flavour. I’m not sure if some people cut the capsicum in half lengthwise before they roast, but if you have space on your tray it would save you turning them. You don’t need to oil them or anything before you put them in the oven, and you’ll be surprised at the amount of oil that comes out of them!
Roasting spices has never been easier! No mess, no mortar and pestle to clean up after grinding them, and the smells that waft through your kitchen are just heavenly.
The tagine itself is easy and pretty quick in the scheme of things. You will need a couple of bowls to set things aside in, but there’s nothing too tiresome in doing that. I did notice after I’d poured it out a little that I had a slightly burned bit on the TM bowl, but it wasn’t burned as such, and the flavours were sound.
I didn’t need anything like 500mls of chicken stock to cover the chicken thighs, in fact I was a little dubious about putting in as much stock as I did as I was over the magic 2 litre mark on the TM bowl. It didn’t bubble over till the very end though, and even then, not much. If you had the varoma in place for the couscous, you wouldn’t even notice.
I had some store bought preserved lemon that I used for this recipe, and it really adds a lovely flavour to the tagine. It’s well worth making your own or having a small jar on hand to use.
All in all, this is a great dish and something I will definitely put in the memory bank for future reference!!