One rule to eat in my house is that no rules are followed.We can easily be found eating an Indian bhel for starters,a Chinese stir fry for main course and an a very English creme caramel for desserts.I guess this is how we Indians are...a potpourri of odd things,flavors,colors and textures put together.We love to assemble up incongruous stuff in ways that it suddenly becomes meaningful.Food is one such thing...as long as it pleases people who are eating it,i give a damn about what the gourmets have to say.For me food has only one objective to fulfill and that is to seduce the senses and lure them to consumption and beyond.
Few days back Indian cricket had a rendezvous with one of its historical and glorious moment that I'm sure every Indian will remember for a long time to come.Now sport events are when all males of a particular specie are at their craziest best and need a lot of food and beer to sober up(their female counterparts are left to do their own thing....cooking and cribbing!!)....but it usually peaks on the day of the finale and suddenly there are these innumerable trips to the kitchen,the refrigerator and the loo:-).Tired of playing stewardess the entire week i gave in and decided to make something that could be cooked without a lot of supervision and would still get me accolades from people(and also gimme the much needed time to do all the cheer leading right in my living room);I zeroed in on a moroccan Tagine with chicken,preserved lemons and olives.I usually make this and the Moroccan Herrera (spicy chick pea soup) when all of the family(including my extended family) gathers on holidays and are all hungry after long hrs of chit chat and gossip.
A tagine is an earthen pot with a heavy and flat bottom and a conical lid that creates a slow cooking environment for vegetables and all sorts of meats,rendering them tenderness and an earthy aroma that is reminiscent of flavors from "handi daal" or "handi chicken" or whatever.It is a great excuse to eat in togetherness,dipping each morsel of bread in the silken gravy and in conversation.
Moroccan food is actually very easy on the Indian palate because of the familiar spices and flavors.This dish is versatile enough to let you use whatever vegetables you have in stock including carrots,baby potatoes,aubergines,green peas, sweet potatoes and so on.Pickled lemon and sweet flavors like raisins or dried apricots are also added sometimes to give it a different dimension.It is also possible to make this dish entirely vegetarian and still retain its basic character.Here is the recipe:
Chicken Tagine with Potatoes,Raisins and Green Olives
Half a kg of chicken(i used only chicken thighs,6 pieces)It is alright to use regular curry cut chicken that we mostly get from the markets here.
Minced garlic cloves-4 or 5
Saffron threads or saffron extract ,depending on what you use-equivalent of 4 to 5 threads
Half a cup of extra virgin olive oil
Turmeric powder-1 tsp
Dried ginger powder-1/2 tsp
Cumin powder-1 tsp
cinnamon powder-1/2 tsp
paprika/red chilli powder(optional)
Preserved lemon(washed and pulp removed)-1 whole lemon
Potatoes-2 medium sized,peeled and cut into thick wedges or baby potatoes,peeled -around 10 to 12
Golden raisins-two tsp /dried apricots-2(just cut them into two halves or it will render the gravy an overly sweet taste
freshly chopped coriander/parsley
Chicken broth,veg stock -1 cup
Salt to taste
- In a bowl mix all the spices and aromatics(garlic,grated onion,dried ginger powder,cumin powder,turmeric,cinnamon powder,paprika and saffron threads/extract and some salt).
- Add the olive oil and chopped coriander/parsley to this mixture and combine it to make a paste.
- Now coat all the vegetables,onion slices and chicken thighs in this paste and layer them in the tagine(or a flat and heavy bottomed pan) with onion slices going in the first layer and the rest arranged above them.
- Throw in some green olives,apricots/raisins and the preserved lemon chopped or whole.
- cover the pan with some foil and let it rest in the refrigerator for about an hr before transferring it to a charcoal fire/gas top or oven.I cooked it covered on a low flame for about 15 mts,added a cup full of broth and transferred it into oven at around 180°C/350°F for about 25 mts.
- Serve it hot and still bubbling with either Bread ,Couscous or plain white Rice.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts, and cereals, and a high intake of olive oil but a low intake of saturated lipids, a moderately high intake of fish, a low-to-moderate intake of dairy products (and then mostly in the form of cheese or yogurt, which contain friendly bacterial probiotics), a low intake of meat and poultry, and a regular but moderate intake of wine.In other words, freshness, small portions, moderate quantity of wine along with such food and above all pleasure in food consuming, obviously make the winning combination for a long and healthy life.