Friday, 5 February 2016

Moroccan chicken tagine with orange wedges- Marrakesh is calling

Moroccan Cooking varies depending where we're looking, whether it's the city, the mountain, the desert, the countryside or the sea side. Although we may have some common dishes and some others which have recently become common across the countries as well as people from all walks of life, we still "discover" each other through our different types of dishes.

I grew up enjoying Fassi cuisine (Fes/Fez) and some of the "Casablancaise" specialties since I was born and raised in Casablanca. I never heard of oranges in a tagines until I opened "La Cuisine Marocaine de mère en fille" by Touria Agourram. What an amazing collection of recipes and stories! It has become one of my favourite Moroccan cookbooks although.

The book hasn't got a single picture but rather some drawings scattered here and there. However, it's a collection of traditional practices and recipes by cities or regions. In a nutshell, exactly what I like!

Today's recipe has oranges as topping, which is the only new thing to me, the bird is cooked as a regular Mqalli of chicken meant to go with sweet topping or garnishing.

I decided to sweeten the oranges with manuka honey 15+ although the recipe calls for only a bit of sugar to do the job. The oranges I used today were naturally sweet so it didn't really need much.

Ideally, a beldi chicken, quail or a gamy bird should be used for this tagine. For optimal taste, cook it in a tagine over charcoal or wood. But for today, I've just used baby chicken and cooked the tagine over a cooker..

Serves 2
Prep: 10 min - cooking: 45 - 90 min (depending on the type of bird and the use of a pot vs tagine)

For the mqalli of chicken
  • 1 baby chicken (you may use a whole baby chicken or quail)
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 handful of coriander to make a small bouquet 
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2/3 tsp of turmeric
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp of ground white pepper
  • A good pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp of sea salt or salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp of smen (Moroccan cured aged clarified butter), optional
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp of good honey

For the orange topping
  • 2 sweet oranges, cut in wedges, discard the white membrane
  • 2/3 tsp of cinnamon
  • 2 tbsps of honey ( or sugar)
  • 20 g of butter
  • 1 tsp of orange blossom water
  • Toasted almonds or sesame seeds


Mqalli of chicken 

Mix half of the spices with smen or/and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Massage the chicken pieces with it. Set aside while you chop the onions.

Place a dutch oven/deep saucepan/tagine on medium heat. Add about 4 tablespoons of water, the chopped onions, the chicken, spices and coriander. Stir it a couple of times over the heat so the spices spread evenly and coat the chicken. 

Once the liquid seem to have evaporated, add the oil and pour enough water (only from the side and not on top of the chicken) to cover the bird (only 1/3 of the quantity if you are cooking in a tagine) and cover. Let simmer until chicken has cooked and the liquid has reduced.  Add the honey and check the seasoning.

If you are using a tagine for this recipe, you should prepare the orange topping once you see that the tagine is almost ready.

If you are cooking this recipe in a saucepan or a dutch oven, I suggest you add an extra step: Fish out the chicken and glaze it with a tiny bit of oil. Place it under a grill/broiler for 20 min at 200 degrees C. Meanwhile, allow the sauce in the pan to reduce and thicken.  Get on with the orange topping.

Orange topping

Heat butter, honey and cinnamon in a frying pan. add the orange wedges. Let them render some liquid and delicately flip them or they'll break. This process will take about 3 to 4 minutes on high flame/heat.

Serving the chicken with oranges

Serve the sauce first, add the chicken pieces and top with the orange wedges. 

I made a reduction of orange juice by adding what I collected when cutting the orange and poured it into the pan used to make the orange topping, I waited for the water to evaporate and added it on top of the ...topping.

I also toasted some flaked almonds and caramelized some, for extra texture! Delicious!

Serve warm with bread or without..

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Moroccan fried eggs with Khli' - Lbid bel khlii : A breakfast from Fez

Khlii is to Fassis (peole from Fez/Fes) what water is to anything that lives...on water; It's something we should have in our cupboard/larder.freezer or fridge at all times whether to use as is or as a condiment in many of our stews, soups and salads. 

Mind you, it was not a delicacy before our time as it was rather a way of preserving meat and serving it during bad days (financially and naturally).

Nowadays that it has got its fame, including across Morocco itself, Khlii has become at thing and it has become widely available in Moroccan markets. Then again, not all is good enough for a connoisseur palate. 

In the world of khlii, there is good and bad, if you don't know your source, you might end up with a nasty stinky surprise that will put you off this centuries old delicacy.

The recipe I'm posting today is considered to be our "fry up" formula for a good morning. It's fried eggs with khlii, as easy as it gets especially if you know some old tricks to get it right and to avoid an indigestion. After all, we are dealing with cured meat which is most of the times preserved in a good layer of fat and you want to make sure you handle it to the best you can for the sake of your digestive system.

The recipe is simple. However, you need a few hints to gets it right so you avoid an indigestion but also to avoid burning those dear nuggets of khlii which is after all the star of the show

It's actually not a recipe per se because it depends on how much khlii and eggs you want. It's even ridiculous to think about quantifying these two BUT, because I want to share the best way to handle this breakfast option, I'm writing it down with quantities.

Serves 2 
Prep: 1 min - Cooking: 1 min
  • 2 to 4 eggs
  • About 1/2 cup of khlii, fat preferably scarped off for most of it (optional) and khlii snipped off to little nuggets
  • 2 tbsps of water
  • A pinch of cumin
  • A pinch of salt to taste (Khlii is already salty)
  • A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Different ways of serving fried eggs with khlii. Parsley is herbs that works best
with this fry up


On a medium heat, place a non-stick frying pan or a small tagine with water and the nuggets of khlii scattered inside it. Use a heat diffuser if your tagine can't take direct heat. The traditional way does not call for scrapping off the excess fat/suet surrounding the khlii as the eggs should "fry" in it.  However, you can put most of it back into the khlii jar (*). 

Once the fat/suet has melted, delicately crack in the eggs (**). 

Season with cumin and salt. Cover and let the egg whites set and the yolk cooked from the edges. I usually knock off the heat at this stage.

If you are using a regular frying pan, flip the eggs just a few seconds before flipping back the whole serving in a serving dish.

If you are using tagine, be aware that the clay holds the heat and you have to let it work for you, you don't have to flip the eggs, just place the tagine in the middle of the table as it keeps bubbling away and the egg yolks are slowly setting. It only requires a few more minutes.

The lemon juice could be added before adding the eggs to the warm khlii or just before serving. The first option is the ideal one.

Enjoy your fried eggs warm with a hot Moroccan mint tea or any hot infusion. Never to be eaten with cold drinks.


*/ You could also leave it to melt but before adding the eggs, pour most of it back in the jar if you don't want to deal with it in the beginning. In this case, make sure to clean the outer edges and the bottom of the pan with wet kitchen roll.

**/ It is important not to burn or dry the little nuggets of khlii. To avoid that, make sure you add the water mentioned in the recipe but also to crack the eggs in once you see that most of the fat/suet has melted. Most of all, it's important to cook this on medium-low heat. 

Monday, 28 December 2015

Moroccan stuffed spleen with different options

Stuffed lamb, beef or camel spleen is a big thing in Morocco. It's a bit of a bumper that I can't find it halal in the UK for some health and safety restrictions but it's one of the things I'd like to have every now and then.

Now if you are familiar with Moroccan street food you may have seen little pockets over charcoal, grilling alongside brochettes d'agneau (lamb skewers) or kefta. Think of it as a massive fat boudin/sausage.

The thing is that the version of grilled spleen found in the street food joints, no matter how appealing it smells and looks, it's usually stuffed with a chermoula mix and fat/suet. The homemade versions are more compact and rich in ingredients.

It's crazy how much a spleen can take in in term of stuffing. It's a bit like a sock, the more you fill the more goes in. You will know when it's seriously overstuffed and about to burst, which is something to avoid.

Stuffed spleen is either chargrilled, or cooked in a saucepan or oven-baked (best option when you have the big ones to handle).

One big camel spleen spotted at Talaa' sghira (Fez)

It's also freezer-friendly and really packs a punch especially if one is suffering from iron deficiency.

Christine Benlafquih is an incredible expert in Moroccan food. She's a reference in the field and I highly suggest you visit her page for more authentic Moroccan recipes of all sorts. She's also a friend of mine and she has documented a stuffed spleen in the making. My mother has shared one of her old recipes and Christine has captured some nice photos with her camera. Please have a look at the details on how to handle a large spleen which you can adjust to different sizes.

This post is only to suggest some of the stuffing combinations you may encounter in Morocco, depending on the families, the regions..The quantities of ingredients vary depending on the size of the spleen but also on one's preferences. It's not a precise recipe.

1/ Stuffed spleen with rice (the version posted by Christine here)

  • 1 veal or beef spleen, trimmed of fat
  • 500 g (1 lb. 3 oz.) finely ground beef or lamb (or a mix of the two)
  • 250 g (8 oz.) suet (chehma), finely chopped
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pitted olives
  • 1 or 2 preserved lemons (flesh only, seeded and chopped)
  • 1 medium onion, grated
  • 1 head of garlic, pressed
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (or red pepper paste or harissa)
  • 1 generous tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 generous tablespoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, or to taste

2/ Stuffed lamb spleens with suet and chermoula (small spleen pockets)

  • lamb spleen
  • onion, finely chopped
  • Chermoula (green version, add chili/cayenne to your liking). This recipe calls for a good dose of it.
  • Diced  fat/suet.
  • Chopped green olives (optional)

This option of stuffed spleen is ideally char grilled. Oven-baked is the second option. It takes less time due to the size.

3/ Stuffed spleen with heart, liver and kidney

  • Heart of a lamb or calf, diced and sauteed for a couple of minutes
  • Liver of lamb or calf, peeled and membrane discarded, diced in small pieces
  • A kidney or two for a dept of flavour, peeled and membrane discarded, diced.
  • Green olives, chopped
  • Preserved lemon, chopped
  • Fine Chinese rice vermicelli or rice, precooked al dente. This ingredient should represent less than the 1/5 of the whole filling.
  • Chermoula

 You can also use a blender to have a compact fine paste and fill the spleen with it.

4/ Stuffed spleen with Moroccan spiced kefta, calf's liver and rice

  • A portion of liver of lamb or calf, peeled and membrane discarded, diced in small pieces
  • Moroccan spiced kefta (minced beef or lamb or mixed). see the kefta recipe here
  • Precooked rice al dente. This ingredient should represent less than the 1/3 of the whole filling.
  • Green olives, chopped
  • Chermoula

So if you are feeling brave to have a go at any of those fillings, make sure you follow the details on how to cook this wonderful offal to perfection from Christine's recipe description.

Should you have cooked spleen leftovers, you could fry them with an egg and make my dad's quick dinner..


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