I was with a friend this week and we were discussing our impending birthdays and it made me think about my own and the lovely tradition my husband started years ago. This particular tradition involves a lazy weekend and a tagine. Both of my favourites!
I used to wonder what all the fuss was about with regards to a tagine. It always takes hours and is it really worth it?
The simple answer is yes! Not only are they beautiful to look at but the minute you open a tagine your senses are delighted with so many different scents and colours. If you close your eyes and breathe in you can almost imagine yourself sitting in a bazaar on a cushion surrounded by noise, colour and delicious fragrance and flavour.
The clay tagine (lid) is magical in how it works. You simply fill with water and allow the clay to absorb the water for 10 to 20 minutes before cooking and then it slowly steams away whilst absorbing the aromas and flavour notes. Each and every time you cook with it you will taste something different. It is without doubt one of my kitchen aids that I could not do without.
The first time I tried this dish was on my birthday 6 or 7 years ago when my lovely husband spent a day cooking for me. It is always such a treat to be cooked for especially by him as he completely understands the love and care I put into every meal I cook and he does so equally when preparing this for me.
He still cooks this every year for me on my birthday (apart from my 30th when he took me to Rome where we ate pizza and drank carafes of red wine) and what has become a lovely tradition and one that I so look forward to is also one of the most delightful ways to eat chicken that I have ever tried.
From our table to yours, I hope you enjoy!
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2 large onions
4 large garlic cloves
1 tsp ground coriander or coriander seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cumin seeds toasted first
a pinch of saffron threads pound with a tsp sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup of hot water
6/8 large boned skinless chicken thighs. You can use breast but I prefer the dark meat in this dish
a handful of pancetta cubes
150 gm olives
100 gm capers
5 preserved lemons or 2 fresh lemons
1 heaped tsp caster sugar to sweeten
Make the dry rub by mixing all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl and coat the chicken thighs in it.
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan, fry off the pancetta cubes and add the marinated chicken. Cook until the chicken has turned golden.
Add sliced onions and garlic and fry for 3 minutes.
Next add the preserved lemons and a cup and a half of water.
Add the olives, sugar, saffron fluid and capers and transfer to a tagine/clay pot
Add the lid and cook at 140’ for around 2 hours.
When ready remove from the oven place straight on the table and serve with polo ba tadig, lavash (bread) or a lovely green salad. Garnish with pomegranate and pistachio slivers or sliced candied lemons.
Enjoy the aroma when you remove the lid for the first time. Nooshe Jaan!