Kasbah Cookery!

In Recipies on October 31, 2012 at 10:50 am

I’ve decided to experiment a bit with tagine (tajine, tajin, or (infreq.) tangine) cookery; particularly with dishes from Morocco and Tunisia.

It’s a bit surprising that Moroccan and Tunisian cooking isn’t as popular in America as it is in the United Kingdom. Americans are enamored with Mexican-style cooking and the herbs and spices used in it originated in North Africa. Its method often uses a tagine vessel, although it is not mandatory to do so in order to have a satisfactory result. If you have a perfectly serviceable Dutch oven, please don’t feel obligated to buy a tagine in order to try these styles of cooking.

People familiar with tagine cookery are most often familiar with the Moroccan variants. These tend to be stew-like combinations of meats, vegetables, or both. Tunisian tagines are more like the Italian fritatta, with eggs and/or pasta tying the ingredients together. Djaj, or chicken tagines, are beloved in Morocco and djaj biltoom may be familiar to readers who have visited Lebanon or northern Israel. This garlicky tagine is a favorite for celebrations there. In most other parts of Israel, the marinated chicken is barbecued over an open flame rather than prepared in a cooking vessel.

The first Moroccan variation we’ll try is djaj souiri. This dish is piquant and aromatic. As I am not a huge fan of saffron, I omitted the characteristic flavoring and substituted some smoked pepper flakes. The dish is also a bit unique since, although Moroccan, its ingredients are bound together with eggs in the Tunisian fashion. It is an easy recipe and it’s a great way to introduce tagine cooking.

You can cut up and use a whole chicken if you like. I used a bargain pack of 99-cents per pound chicken legs. The skin was carefully removed after the first cooking to cut back on the fat content of the meal.

You’ll need:

2-3 lb chicken pieces

2 TBS olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted

½ tsp crushed pepper flakes

 or pinch crushed saffron

1 tsp ground black pepper

pinch of kosher salt


4-6 fresh eggs

juice of one lemon

2 TBS chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a tagine, Dutch oven, or deep (covered) skillet. Snuggle the chicken pieces together in the pan. (NOTE: Some clay tagines are not suitable for stovetop use!) Sprinkle one teaspoon of cinnamon, a half teaspoon of the cumin, black pepper, and pepper flakes (or saffron) on top of the chicken. Add enough water to nearly cover the chicken and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Scatter the onion slices on top. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about one hour.

Remove the chicken to a platter and set aside. Stir in the lemon juice and chopped parsley. Reduce the liquid until it thickens. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the chicken. Return the chicken to the pan and scatter the sesame seeds over it. Whisk the parsley and the remaining cinnamon and cumin into the eggs. Pour the egg mixture over the chicken. Cover, and simmer until the eggs are just set. Serve immediately with couscous.






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