Alas, I forgot the pine nuts! Oh! Well, I will remember them tonight when we have the leftovers.
This month, the Cookbook Guru has asked members to pitch for a book or books to be featured. I have decided to pitch for The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert (a winner of the James Beard Award – the “Oscars” of the cookbook world).
Paula Wolfert is an acclaimed American cookbook author who specialises in Mediterranean cooking. The Food of Morocco is her latest book and it is fabulous. It is an expanded version of her 1973 book ,Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, a book which is still in print after 40 years. You only have to google Paula Wolfert’s name to become instantly aware of the high regard in which she is held in the culinary world. She is the author of nine books and the winner of numerous cookbook awards. She also wrote The Cooking of Southwest France, and books about the cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean, slow Mediterranean cooking and Mediterranean clay pot cooking.
I have only recently bought The Food of Morocco and would love the excuse of the Cookbook Guru to explore it more. It is over 500 pages and full of lovely photographs and luscious-sounding dishes.
This recipe is my first venture into the book and it was a stunner. I will certainly be making it again. There are a few steps involved but, geez, the dish is worth it. The sauce is rich and buttery and perfectly balanced.
I chose this recipe as both Maus and I used to love apricot chicken. Our mums used to make it. I am sure almost every Australian mum did. For those who don’t know, apricot chicken consists of: a tin of apricot nectar, a packet of French onion soup and some chicken. When I was working, and Maus was in charge of cooking, we had apricot chicken a little too often, so I banned it. Then, not so long ago, I thought it would be nice for old times sake. I went to buy the ingredients only to find that you can’t buy Berries 100% apricot nectar anymore. What is called “apricot nectar” is basically sugar and water. I decided to buy a tin of apricots and puree them, but it just wasn’t the same.
Therefore, when I spied this infinitely more sophisticated version, I decided to try it. It was delicious.
It is easy to make but there are a few steps so give yourself plenty of time.
- 4 chicken marylands (leg and thigh)
- 1 garlic clove
- a pinch of saffron, dissolved in two tablespoons of water
- spice mix – see below
- 1 tsp smen (Smen is cultured, clarified butter. I didn’t have any so I used ghee – ordinary butter would also do.)
- 3 tbs* sugar
- 2 tbs* olive oil
- 1 onion, halved then sliced
- 7-10 sprigs each of coriander and parsley, tied together
- 20 dried apricots
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- 2 tbs* unsalted butter
- stick of cinnamon
- white pepper
- 2 tbs* pinenuts or sesame seeds (Don’t forget them!)
- 1tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp white pepper
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp cubeb pepper (optional) (I left this out as I didn’t have any. I had never heard but I am trying to source some.)
- Generous pinch of grated nutmeg
*These are 15 mil tablespoons.
- Crush the garlic with ½ tsp of salt.
- Stir in the saffron water, spice mixture, smen (or butter) and 1½ teaspoons of sugar.
- Coat the chicken on all sides and under the skin with the mixture. Allow to stand for 30 minutes.
- Place the apricots, orange juice and 2½ tablespoons of sugar, the butter and cinnamon stick in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced and syrupy, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
- Put the olive oil, onion, a pinch of salt and ¼ cup of water in a flame-proof tagine or casserole dish. Cover and cook until the onion is soft and golden (Don’t rush it. I cooked mine for 40 minutes). Remove the onion and set aside.
- Add the chicken to the pan and lightly colour on each side.
- Add back the onion, add the herbs and ¼ cup of water, reduce the heat to a bare simmer and cook covered for 45 minutes, turning the thighs once.
- Uncover tagine and remove the herbs.
- Add the apricots and the juice. Continue cooking until chicken is very well cooked.
- Add salt and white pepper, to taste.
- Put the dish under griller (broiler) and grill it until it is a nice golden colour.
- Sprinkle with pine nuts or sesame seeds (Don’t forget them!).
- Serve with couscous. I used this recipe.
Postscript: We just had the left overs and I forgot the pine nuts again 😦