Thursday, 3 May 2012

Bringing the Tagine Back

Once upon a time I had favourite types of food that I just loved to cook and that the whole family loved to eat. Just before we started the elimination diet, my absolute favourite was Moroccan. The rich sauces, fragrant spices, the sweet and savoury combinations did it for me. It was fun to make, there were so many things that I could do with it. I had, up until now, been far too apprehensive to try a failsafe equivalent, there was no way it could possibly measure up to the past efforts. Tonight I gave it a go and while it was nothing like the dishes that I used to make it was still good in its own way. It was flavoursome, it has the sweetness and the meatiness and it was rich and filling. Plus it gave me the opportunity to use my tagine which has mostly been gathering dust the last few years.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, the tagine is a Moroccan earthenware cooking vessel. It has a shallow dish for the food to sit in and a conical lid. These are traditionally cooked over hot coals, but can be used over a gas flame too. If you don't have one, never fear! A large frying pan with a lid or a lidded saucepan or a flameproof casserole dish would do the job quite well.

Chicken and Pear Tagine with Quinoa
  • 700g (approx) Chicken breast fillets cut into large cubes.
  • 1 medium leek, halved lengthways and sliced thinly.
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed.
  • Large pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp oil or ghee**
  • 1/2 swede, grated
  • 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  •  1-2 tsp salt
  • 3 pears, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
  • 2 tsp nuttelex
  • 2 Tbsp rice malt syrup
  • 1 cup quinoa, well rinsed (I used a mixture of white, red and black for colour)
  • 2 cups water
  1. Heat oil or ghee in tagine base over medium to high heat. Cook leeks and garlic until soft.
  2. Add chicken and seal all over.
  3. Stir through the swede and mix in the saffron and water.
  4. Turn heat down to very low, cover and simmer for 20 mins
  5. While this is cooking bring water for quinoa to boil in a medium saucepan, add quinoa, cover and turn down to a bare simmer. It will take about 20mins to cook
  6. Heat nuttelex in a frying pan and add pears. Stir and turn often so they don't burn. Cook for about 10mins then drizzle the rice malt syrup over them and cook for another few mins.
  7. While the pears are cooking add the chickpeas to the tagine and add the salt to taste, cook for another 10mins.
  8. Serve up, placing the pears and syrup over the chicken and the quinoa on the side.

My son mumbled "This is really good" through his first mouthful. So I'm taking it to mean this is a winning dinner here.

Variations- Gluten - Serve with couscous instead of quinoa
                    Salicylates- Add ras el hanout just before you add the chicken and sprinkle with chopped coriander for serving. You could also use honey instead of the rice malt.
                   ** The ghee - There has been a bit of talk amongst some failsafe groups lately as to whether ghee is ok for those who can't eat dairy as the lactose and proteins should no longer be in it. Some people say they tolerate it, some don't. Use your own judgement or treat it as a challenge, or if you are unsure just don't use it.

This tagine is not for cooking in, just for serving and display. The cooking ones are far less ornamental. So don't buy one like this if you want to cook in it.

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