I tweaked this recipe quite a bit to make it suit my family’s tastes and preferences. I’ll give you the instructions as written in the cookbook (Michael Smith‘s Fast Flavours), and then note my changes at the end. Italicized ingredients will be altered somehow in my version.
1 whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 can chickpeas
1 cup pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup marmalade
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup sliced almonds
leaves and stems from 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Dump everything except almonds, cilantro, and lemon wedges into a large pot with a snug lid. Bring to a full boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, then adjust the heat much lower, just enough to maintain a steady simmer. Tightly over and let simmer for 20 minutes.
For even more tenderness, let everything enjoy 60 full minutes of slow simmering. Then ladle into bowls, top with almonds, cilantro and lemon wedges, and share.
I find slicing a chicken into pieces too daunting. There’s a butcher nearby who would do this for me, but I opted to use chicken thighs from Loblaws, one per adult. Easy!
I made two pots, one large, one tiny, so that Jazz’s portion could be made without chicken. That was just a matter of divvying up the ingredients. The only extra work was one small pot to wash. Plenty of protein in the chickpeas and almonds.
And then, because Wonderful Husband does not like cilantro floating on the surface, I chopped the rinsed cilantro roughly, then dumped it into the blender with a quarter cup of the orange juice. Pureed it. It was an experiment: is it the flavour of the cilantro he objects to, or just green leafy bits on the surface of his stew? If it’s the flavour, I’ve just spoiled the stew for him, of course, but enquiring minds need to know!
Answer: It’s just the green leafy bits. Yay! So all the flavour, none of the bits. A win-win. Though in fact I did keep some fresh cilantro aside for me, because I like the texture, and, I discovered, pureed cilantro doesn’t give you that yummy back-of-the-mouth smokey-earthy smell-taste when it’s pureed. (We don’t have enough words to describe taste and scent in our language, have you ever noticed that?)
Powdered spices tend to float on the surface of a liquid, so instead of just dumping them as is into the pot, I put all spices in a small cup and drizzled in some water, a bit at a time, whisking with a fork, until I got a smooth paste, then dumped them in the blender with the pureed cilantro and gave it another quick whirl. THEN I dumped it in the pot. (But you don’t have to do any of this! If you want simple, just bung it in the pot and cook it.)
And finally. I’ve made a few of Chef Michael’s sweetened dinner dishes and have discovered the man has way, way, waaaaaaaaay more of a sweet tooth than I do. I knew without even tasting that I was going to find the recipe as written cloyingly sweet, so I skipped the marmalade altogether and reduced the orange juice by half, replacing the remainder of the liquid with water. (For more flavour depth, you could use chicken broth … if you weren’t feeding a vegetarian, that is!) In fact, I added water at a couple of points to get the consistency of the broth right, so there may be even less than half the suggested amount of juice in mine.
The result? Soooo yummy! The orange juice and dates made it sweet, yes, and the spices made it rich and earthy. The almonds gave a nice crunch at the end.
Just a lovely, lovely dish. Exotic (though in the preamble, Michael says the flavours of Morocco “inspire dinner, not authenticity”) and delicious.
We ate ours served over rice.