out of the frying pan: moroccan chicken with potato and olives
They seem like such insubstantial, insignificant ingredients, but once I learnt how to utilise them properly I immediately appreciated the definition and character they can lend to any given dish.
If I were to advise any aspiring cooks on the core spices they shouldn’t be without, I’d suggest starting with ground cumin, ground turmeric, coriander seeds, cayenne pepper, and of course pepper. They usually run between $1.50 and $3 a packet, but they’re each an investment that will pay for themselves time and time again.
This incredibly easy dish is a perfect example of how a few potentially bland ingredients can be transformed into something impressive by a simple combination of standard Moroccan spices.
Moroccan Chicken with Potato and Olives
You’ll need to put aside about an hour and a half for this dish, but if you want to speed the process up you can parboil your potatoes for 10 – 15 minutes or slice them thinner than I do.
Vegetarian alternative: Use veggie stock and replace the chicken thighs with a tin of chickpeas and between half a cup and a cup of peas. I’ve included the point at which to add them, so just follow the recipe as given.
500 gm. free range or organic chicken thighs, each sliced into three to five pieces
1 brown onion, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups chicken stock
3 potatoes in 1cm thick slices (don’t be afraid to leave the skin on)
Juice of one lemon
10-15 green olives, sliced (if unpitted, just slice the flesh off the pits)
1-3 small red chillies, finely chopped (optional)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 ½ tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp. sweet paprika
Half a cinnamon stick (optional)
Handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Note: Make sure you have two pans before you start cooking as you’ll need one for the bulk of the dish, and another in which to brown the chicken thighs.
1. Place chicken in a bowl. Add half a tsp. of olive oil, two cloves of crushed garlic, one tsp. each of ground ginger, crushed coriander seeds, and sweet paprika, half a tsp. of ground turmeric, the juice of half a lemon, and a good grind of pepper. Make sure the chicken is coated in the spices, cover, and leave in the fridge for anything up to 24 hours.
2. Put a glug of olive oil in a deep frying pan on a low heat and add onions. Sweat until soft and translucent and add remaining two garlic cloves, chilli, cinnamon stick, and half a tsp. each of turmeric and ground ginger, frying very gently for another 2-3 minutes.
3. Arrange potato slices around pan in one or two layers, and add all of your stock. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes.
4. If cooking vegetarian alternative: Instead of 15-20 minutes, simmer potatoes and onions for 30 minutes before adding chickpeas. After another half an hour and add peas. Simmer gently until potatoes are soft, and follow from step 7 onward.
5. Oil your second pan and place on high heat. Brown chicken pieces in a few batches (if you do it all at once they’ll release too much liquid and stew instead of browning) for a minute or so on each side, then add to your potato and onions.
6. Replace lid and simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, or until chicken is cooked and potatoes are soft, stirring a few times throughout.
7. Stir in juice of the remaining lemon half, add olives, and season with salt to taste.
8. Remove from heat after a few minutes, and stir in parsley.
9. Serve with couscous, brown rice, or a slice or two of good quality bread.
Tip: Sass up your couscous with pine nuts, currants, finely diced preserved lemon, or some roughly chopped coriander or parsley.