Chicken Tagine with Mograbieh & Minted Yoghurt
This lovely chicken tagine is from Ashraf Saleh, who features as guest chef in the week-end magazine "Life" section of national newspaper, The Australian. Saleh is chef/owner of Coya in Sydney; his book Coya: French Middle Eastern Cuisine could break my "no more cook books" mantra.
The recipe calls for an organic chicken. Now I'm as "woke" as your next foodie-eco-warrior but I must ask, would the recipe still work if I used a free-range chicken, or a corn-fed chicken, or a macro-biotic chicken? What about a harassed mum who just grabs a poor blighted supermarket chook on her way home? (A previous "guest chef" recipe called for free-range chicken pieces. Once again, would an organic chicken have ruined the recipe?)
I'm being facetious here, but what do I require of a chicken?
Mograbieh is sometimes called pearl couscous, sometimes Israeli couscous, sometimes Lebanese couscous. It's now made specifically to size and dried. It was once a by-product of making couscous from scratch, by hand at home, something that is rarely done today. My mother could do it. I can do it, but rarely choose to.
When the semolina is dampened in the open flat wooden bowl, and rolled and rubbed to create the fine grains of couscous, there are always some large ones formed, the size of a small pea, that are winnowed and set aside.
Mograbieh is basically little round pasta. Whatever, it's a useful starch alternative, under stews or roasts or part of a salad.
A Tagine is both a dish and the pot it's cooked in. If you make a tagine, (often a combination of meat, vegetables, sometimes dried fruit) but cook it in a covered saucepan or casserole, can it be called a tagine? A conundrum.
Tagines are often just a decorative kitchen piece or an exotic serving dish, the earthenware base and funnel-like lid needing to be handled carefully. Le Creuset make a "modern" one with a cast iron bottom and red earthenware top. (There have also been good ones at a fraction of the cost at Aldi!) As the food simmers, the steam rises up the funnel and dribbles back down, round and round, like a retort in gin making. It does seem to create rich flavours.
Perhaps there will be a mograbieh recipe and a tagine in my next post. And I'll make sure to get an organic, free-range chicken.
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