Moroccan Chicken & Preserved Lemon Tagine

I had been itching to make this tagine for some time but it has quite a lot of ingredients so it took planning to get everything together.

Once the ingredients were assembled I was ready. It felt like this recipe was going to be a bit of a marathon so I made it a Friday meal. I usually try to create something a little more detailed on a Friday, but I actually started this on Thursday night.

Anyway. First I had to create the chermoula marinade which is the most intoxicating mix of garlic, preserved lemon, fresh coriander and parsley, and many herbs and spices. I then covered the approximate weight of chicken pieces — I was supposed to break down a whole chicken but I’m not up to that — in aforementioned marinade, covered it in cling film and put it in the fridge overnight.

So, Friday ticked around and when work was done I carried on with the tagine. Onions and tomatoes were chopped and spread over the bottom of my casserole dish — I do have a tagine, a magnificent looking black one from a certain Swedish home store that cost a small fortune, and doesn’t work. There is a deep ridge around the inside of the lid so the liquid that is created from steam that’s supposed to drip back down on to the food just collects in the ridge, only to reveal itself when the lid is removed and it spills all over the cooker. *eye roll* — then the marinated chicken pieces were placed in the middle of the dish.

Next I coated potatoes in some of the leftover marinade and placed them around the edge of the dish.

Up next was a layer of sliced onion and tomato, and olives – tucked in here there and everywhere. Finally I mixed the rest of the leftover marinade with water and poured it over the contents of the dish, finishing with preserved lemon wedges.

As per the recipe I simmered the tagine on a low heat. It took longer than the suggested 45 minutes, but not far off.

I served the tagine with basmati rice as I don’t do couscous. And I also served it with Salade Mechouia, a Moroccan roasted red pepper and tomato salad.

Now, the tagine was delicious, really savoury – but the salad was an absolute revelation. Here is the recipe and you can see it at the back of my image. I’ve since made a ‘wing it’ version with no measurements, just peeled blistered peppers, preserved lemon, garlic, then seasoning and a splash each of olive oil and red wine vinegar and that’s delish too, and amazing in sandwiches. It will be fantastic as a barbecue side, if we ever get to have a barbecue!

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Moroccan Chicken & Preserved Lemon Tagine

Roasted veggie lasagne

We eat meat but I do like to cook vegetarian food which inevitably means I end up experimenting, after all — that’s how we improve!

This veggie lasagne was no different. The first time I made it I carefully roasted red, green, and yellow peppers along with butternut squash, zucchini, and red onions until they had a slight char. This was certain to mean lots of flavour, or so I thought.

Next I added all of the lovely veg to the garlicky tomato sauce I had concocted and reduced until it was unctuous and silky, which meant I pretty much lost the veg in the sauce and the sauce in the veg!

The assembled lasagne was fine of course, but I wanted the individual veg to play their own lead and mixing the sauce and the veg had ruined that.

I thought about the logistics of this lasagne for a while to format a plan for the next attempt, and the following was the result.

As before I cut all of the veggies into large chunks and threw them on to a roasting tray before drizzling with olive oil and seasoning with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a little dried rosemary (I love dried rosemary on veg). After a good mix I put the tray in a preheated 200 degree centigrade oven until they had a nice char and were tender but not mushy.

Whilst the veg was roasting I made my tomato sauce by sautéing diced onion with lots of garlic (4 cloves, my default setting) in a little oil until the onion was translucent. I then added a good dollop of tomato paste and let that cook out for about 6 minutes (it really makes a difference if you use 6 minute rule on tomato paste – just ask Simon Rimmer!) before adding a tin of plum tomatoes and half a carton of passata. At this point I added a good sprinkle of oregano (my favourite dried herb) and an equally good sprinkle of mixed herbs along with SSalt and FGblack pepper. Sometimes I add a splish of red wine to meat sauces at this point, so I could’ve done here, but I probably didn’t have any open. Then the tomato sauce just has to cook out for a while.

I also made an all in one white sauce (really easy, honest!) by putting 637ml cold milk (I use uht skimmed and it still works), 30g plain flour, and 30g cold butter (I actually use oil, but that’s my preference) into a saucepan (it must all be cold) then heated gently, whisking constantly until thick and bubbling and then simmering (whisk free) for about 10 minutes. I then add 100g ish (always more, never less) of grated mature cheddar and check seasoning. I prefer cheese sauce to béchamel in lasagne. (This recipe yields a generous quantity of sauce for a 2 layer lasagne with 3 sauce layers [bottom of dish, then covering 2 layers of pasta] that produces 8 portions. Sometimes I add Parmesan too, sometimes a little mozzarella, whatever takes my fancy.)

Now, with all of the cooked components ready I got my family sized lasagne dish (after this effort I want 6 portions for freezing — and it freezes REALLY well) and put a layer of cheese sauce, followed by my no pre cook lasagne sheets. I then added enough roasted veg to cover, spooning a good eye quantity of tomato sauce on top. Next it was lasagne sheets, then cheese sauce. I repeated from veg to cheese sauce once more then sprinkled grated cheddar, parmesan, and mozzarella over the top. Sometimes I sprinkle a little dried oregano over the top but I forgot this time.

Next it’s the oven, about 160 centigrade fan (or 180 conventional) until the top is nicely browned and the rest is bubbling gently (only visible if you have a glass dish like me!), about 30 to 40 minutes.

I always let the lasagne rest for at least 5 minutes once it leaves the oven to give it chance to firm up.

The resulting lasagne with the veg prepped separately from the sauce was an absolute success. Each vegetable had its own starring role and the texture lifted the dish far above the version I previously made. It also looked really pretty, I hope you’ll agree!

Roasted veggie lasagne

My mad weekly kitchen diary-ish

I’m sorry. I disappeared. There’s been quite a bit going on, and I’ve wanted to write this post since xmas, but I mislaid my images. Months later and hours of trawling through Twitter to find my original post with the images on here I am, finally! And not actually a diary, so there’s that too!

The dish I have been dying to post about is biscuits and sausage gravy.

I first came across this dish – well it was just biscuits and gravy – some years ago when I was visiting family in the States and it was ordered by my sister’s boyfriend at the time.

I was intrigued. Not intrigued enough to order it myself, because my British inner voice was yelling ‘He’s ordered a scone! And it’s got white sauce on!’ but I was interested. Fast forward a few years and the dish would pop into my head intermittently, so I decided that I wanted to make it around xmas time, which is when I try and create interesting breakfasts and brunches.

Here is where the problems started… It took a while, because most ‘recipes’ on the interwebs start with ‘open the can of biscuits’, which frankly is not a recipe, and I can’t buy biscuits in the UK. Not those biscuits anyway, and I don’t think our biscuits, for example Rich Tea or Custard Creams will do quite the same job.

I could have used a British scone recipe, but I wanted to be as near as possible to the biscuit recipe so I persevered.

Anyway, sometime last year I found a good and proper recipe for biscuits and sausage gravy so I made plans to have all of the ingredients I needed for the festive period. Luckily, I managed to get buttermilk which was the main hurdle, and as for the sausage, it wasn’t going to be American sausage but I live in Cumbria (used to be called Cumberland) so using our fabulous Cumberland sausage was a no brainer.

biscuits and gravy
Biscuits and Cumberland sausage gravy!

Now, I’m not the biggest sausage fan, but Cumberland sausage is delicious. I use it also for sausage rolls, and the stuffing for my turkey during festive period. Proper Cumberland sausage doesn’t come in links, but one length. It’s thicker than most sausages, although one can purchase ‘thin’ from certain butchers. The recipe is usually just pork meat and fat, seasoning, and maybe breadcrumbs but Cumberland sausage is quite dense so maybe not.

So… I followed the recipe for the biscuits as closely as possible, but I swapped out the vegetable shortening for lard as the hydrogenated fats in solid vegetable fat that I can buy here are worse than solid animal fat, and I used rock salt instead of kosher. Everything else was kept the same. I then flattened and cut, then threw them in the oven.

Next I started on the sausage gravy by removing the sausage meat from its skin then fried it off as per the directions, added the onion and cooked that before removing the solid stuff from the pan.

I added a little oil to the pan (I didn’t use butter as I didn’t need much) then put the sausage back in and added flour, stirring. It became very claggy as effectively what I was doing was starting a roux with added sausage. I cooked that off for a while before adding the seasoning and then the milk a little at a time. I didn’t measure the milk; I added it in stages until it was the right consistency by eye. I like my sauces thick. The aroma at this stage was amazing as Cumberland sausage always smells wonderful, but had just been elevated.

Now I must admit it was a bit of a slog for brunch because at that point in the festive period I am in ‘hardly any cooking’ mode, but it would be easy to prepare a most of it ahead, after all – I followed this recipe when there were only two of us so we had leftovers for days! And Days! And I froze some.

Can I just say, you probably shouldn’t biscuits and gravy every day, but it was absolutely a-mazing, and it will be a yearly thing for us from now on. I split the scones – sorry, biscuits – horizontally in half as per the recipe pic, and we spooned on the gravy that was still in the pan in which it was cooked in the middle of the table.

Brits… If you haven’t tried this you should!

My mad weekly kitchen diary-ish

A methi in my madness?

Some occurrences are just weird, and this rambling perhaps will highlight that, or may highlight that I’m seeing something in nothing…

My father died some years ago, at least nine years. You may think it’s odd that I don’t know down to the minute the time of his demise, but we were estranged, I hadn’t had contact with him for many years before I found out he’d died.

A kind friend of his gave me a few personal effects, cookery books and the like, for which I was very grateful as the few good memories I have of my father are food related, he was a fantastic cook, of many ethnic styles. Amongst the personal effects was an old exercise book in which he had written many recipes; there was even a recipe written in my probably twelve years old handwriting that he must have dictated as he tested and cooked a dish.

The Exercise Book
The Exercise Book

So… In the years since I’ve had the book I’ve read it from cover to cover, and looked at each piece of paper he tore from magazines and stowed amongst the pages. One of my hobbies is reading cookery books (then not following the recipe), and as such I’ve read my father’s book many times. In fact, I look at it so often I keep it on top of a pile of books on the coffee table shelf.

The pile of books!
The pile of books!

So here’s the weird bit… two Sundays ago I was building a new TV unit in a bid to stop the kitten from strangling herself amongst the wires that the old open TV unit did nothing to hide, but on my own it was difficult to keep the unit straight, so I had the brainwave to prop some of the unit on books. I was kneeling by the coffee table so I was able to grab from my pile of mahoosive cookery books to create a level. The exercise book, being the smallest was not needed so I pulled it from the top of the pile and placed it on the table top. I then used the three cookery books on the pile to bolster the unit whilst I put in the locking cams.

I happily worked away for some time building the unit, then just happened to glance at the last book that would usually be the bottom of the pile, and noticed a lone piece of paper on top of said book with my father’s handwriting on. I reached for the paper and scanned it, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up…

The lone piece of paper!
The lone piece of paper!

You see, my favourite Indian curry is ‘Methi’, which is a rich dark sauce made with fenugreek leaves. It’s difficult to get in a takeaway; it’s not that usual in Indian restaurants, so of late I’ve been trying to recreate it myself from a solitary recipe I found online, again recipes are few and far between.

My father's recipe, previously unseen!
My father’s recipe, previously unseen!

I can honestly say I have never seen that recipe of my dad’s before, and my love of Methi based curry was nothing to do with my dad, so I didn’t realise he had ever made it, and in all of the times I pored over that book I didn’t see that slip of paper, I would go as far as to say it wasn’t there, and it wasn’t sitting on that book either. It’s like it was put there so I would notice!

 

 

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A methi in my madness?

Chilli Con Barley – My vegetarian chilli

Chilli Con Barley with basmati rice
Chilli Con Barley with basmati rice

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup red split lentils
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1tsp ground paprika
  • 1tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2tsp ground cayenne
  • 1/2tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2tsp of tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced/crushed
  • 1 whole dried chilli
  • 1 fresh green chilli, sliced; seeds in or out
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes (400g)
  • 1 tin kidney beans (400g), rinsed
  • Stock cube of your choice
  • Seasoning
  • As much fresh coriander as you like
  • Half a lime (a favourite of mine but clearly optional!)

Method

Rinse and cook the dried pearl barley as per instructions (mine takes about an hour), can be done in advance.

Meanwhile, in a pot that has a lid sauté the onion, celery, and red pepper on medium heat in a little oil until tender, about 10 mins.

Add all spices and oregano, cocoa, garlic, & tomato paste to the onion mix, combine and cook out gently for 6 mins, to develop tomato paste.

Chilli Con Barley - other ingredients
Chilli Con Barley – other ingredients

Next, add the cooked barley, lentils, tinned tomatoes, kidney beans, dried whole chilli and fresh chilli to onion and spice mix, add one and a half tomato tins full of cold water (you may need more, or less water. By eye is good) and the crumbled stock cube. I used veg stock cube because I wanted to keep it vegetarian, but chicken could be used, or even beef. Put the lid on.

Simmer for about half an hour, or until lentils are tender. I usually turn the hob to very low and let it do its own thing for as long as I need.

Check seasoning and add salt if necessary and a twist or 10 of black pepper then serve with your favourite chilli con carne accompaniments.

Chilli Con Barley - finished
Chilli Con Barley – finished

NB. My chilli con barley didn’t have fresh coriander in this time because I didn’t have any. Sometimes I don’t have celery, or a red pepper, and even fresh chillies. I just wing it! Things that I wouldn’t leave out though is the onion and all spices.

Variations

I’m going to try replacing ground beef with the cooked barley, and lentils in many dishes such as lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, and cottage pie. If I’m brave enough I might even make a burger, but I’d have to cook the lentils first… 😉

For lunch the next day I grabbed a ladle full of the chilli, added water and heated in a pan before whizzing with a stick blender. It made a delicious soup, so if you hate my recipe as a chilli you have a great soup!

Chilli Con Barley – My vegetarian chilli

My volcanic chilli sauce (hot sauce) recipe

Volcanic chilli sauce
Volcanic chilli sauce!

Ingredients

3 red chillies
3 green chillies
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
2 fresh tomatoes
1 tsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 cup (25cl) water

Method

Roughly chop chillies removing stalks. (If you want a milder sauce remove some seeds and pith. I leave it all in, because, volcanic!)
Roughly chop tomatoes.
Add both to a pan.
Add rest of ingredients.
Bring to boil then simmer for about 30 minutes or until chillies are very tender.
Cool a little then blitz in a blender or with a stick blender.
It’s very hot, but delicious! Also delicious added to mayo for a milder creamy sauce for wraps etc.

Note: We have a poor showing of chillies in this area so I have to buy a bag of ‘mixed chillies’ that are supposedly medium heat (they’re not!). The variety is Serenade but just use similar plump chillies to the pic below.

Plumplicious chillies!
Plumplicious chillies!
My volcanic chilli sauce (hot sauce) recipe