What’s cooking today: Chicken tajine with dried figs, cashews and limes
A tajine works its mysterious magic in ways that are hard to comprehend. Best just to accept that the ancient designer of that conical lid knew something about the transference of flavour and vapour.
One-pot cooking is not to be scoffed at. A tajine, the Moroccan cooking vessel with a conical lid, always produces a dish in which flavours are intensified by the strange sorcery that happens by the rising of vapours into that cylinder and then returning to the bubbling wonders below.
This tajine dish is all about chicken and Turkish dried figs, with spices of fenugreek, cardamom, clove, cumin, cinnamon and coriander. It’s served with couscous finished with toasted garlic, green pepper, lime zest and toasted cashews. The finishing touch: halved limes grilled in olive oil, to squeeze over.
My tajine has a cast iron base and ceramic lid. If your tajine has a ceramic base, you can use it on the stove top if you use a diffuser to avoid the base having direct contact with the hot plate. My previous tajine was a ceramic one, from Algeria (bought at a French market), and I often used it on the stove top on the lowest heat, but rather take the advice of using a diffuser.
8 chicken thighs
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp each of ground cumin, cinnamon, and coriander
½ tsp each of ground fenugreek, ginger, and white pepper
¼ tsp ground cloves
8 green cardamom pods
4 garlic cloves, sliced
250 g dried Turkish figs
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 litre chicken stock
Limes (1 per portion), halved
Salt and pepper
100 g couscous
100 ml boiling water
2 Tbsp butter
1 heaped tsp cornflour (optional)
Handful of cashews, toasted
1 small green pepper or half a large pepper, chopped
Mix the ground spices together and rub over the chicken thighs.
Brown the thighs all over in olive oil in the tajine base. Remove to a side dish.
Add more olive oil and cook the onion and garlic on a low heat until softened. Return the chicken to the pot and sprinkle over any remaining spice mix. Add the dried figs and cardamom pods, and pour the chicken stock over. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Let it simmer very gently with the lid on for about an hour. You can thicken the sauce with a heaped teaspoon of cornflour mixed with water if it’s still too runny.
Grill halved limes in olive oil until nicely browned. Serve these with the tajine.
Pour boiling water over the couscous in a bowl and leave it to steep for 5 minutes. The grains will absorb all the water. Toss it with a fork, then add butter and toss that in with the fork too. Stir in toasted cashews, chopped green pepper and lime zest. DM/TGIFood
Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is available in the DM Shop. Buy it here.
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