During my time spent living in Rabat, in North-East Morocco I was utterly charmed by this classic dish that was lovingly made by the local ladies at the Arabic school where I was studying. Each day, these ladies would be seen chattering like sparrows in the kitchen, placing chunks of meat and vegetables in robust tagine pots and cooking them outside in the garden on a flickering open flame. The result being that inside the earthenware terracotta-colored pots, the tender meat would melt off the bone and produce a gorgeous fragrant jus.
It was this delicate and clever mixing of contrasting flavors that truly drew my interest and truly stands out in apricots cooked with juicy lamb flavors in their cuisine is truly magical, legs of savory and sweet I confess, the manner that Moroccans blend Seffa Medfouna, consisting of succulent chicken thighs in an aromatic sauce with plump sultanas and a dash of honey is added in the last stage, just before serving. Traditionally, this dish is served with piles of thick vermicelli noodles and sprinkled with icing sugar, cinnamon and crushed toasted almonds. I have used vermicelli noodles for this recipe however disappointingly, struggled to find noodles resembling those used in Morocco. I purchased the noodles pictured in a curious Chinese supermarket, however once boiled they turned out to be flimsy and unnervingly translucent. I have since come to the conclusion that fluffy couscous and a sprinkling of leftover parsley to garnish is an ideal alternative.
INGREDIENTS (SERVES 4-6)
1kg of boneless chicken thighs
2 white onions, diced
1 tbsp of butter
1* 20g of fresh parsley (do not chop)
1* 20g of fresh coriander (do not chop)
100g of raisins or sultanas
2 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
100g of roasted almonds, crushed /toasted flaked almonds
400ml of organic chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
1 tsp ras al hanout
1 1/2 tsp of paprika picante
1 tsp of turmeric
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of salt for seasoning
2 tsp of ground black pepper
4-6 portions of couscous to serve
In a large wide pan (preferably with a lid) heat the olive oil and the butter and gently fry the onions until golden, place the lid over the pan half-way through cooking to allow them to sweat.
Place the chicken, garlic spices, salt and black pepper inside the pan then pour over the stock to cover the chicken.
Place the coriander and parsley leaves and stalks (whole) in the pan, trying to keep them together as a 'bouquet'. However, avoid placing any string or plastic in the dish, (makes me think of Bridget Jones' disastrous Blue string soup, apologies for the cultural reference). Bring the pan to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Reduce the heat to until a light simmer and cover the pan with the lid. Allow the dish to continue simmering for at least 45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.
If you feel that you have too much sauce, I recommend removing the pan and allowing the pan to bubble, allowing some of the liquid to evaporate.
Once the chicken is cooked, gently remove the coriander and parsley bouquets, (which now have a unpleasant pond-mulch texture) however have delivered all their tastiness into the rich, aromatic sauce.
Add the honey to the sauce and simmer gently for 10-15 mins.
Meanwhile prepare your couscous/vermicelli for serving.
To serve sprinkle the dish with the crushed or flaked almonds and a little bit of cinnamon if you enjoy things on the sweeter side.
Serve with your carb of choice and with a fresh Moroccan salad on the side (chopped cucumber, cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced red onion with a light dressing).