Chicken Tagine with Mango & Apricot
Hailing from the Moroccan food tradition, tagine is a type of dish with many variations. It draws its name from the vessel in which it is cooked—a distinctive, peak-topped ceramic tureen. The people of this beautiful but arid region long ago discovered that the unique shape allowed moisture to be retained. And yet, it also permits air to circulate, maximising both the tenderness and richness of the ingredients.
While many food purists may argue that an authentic tagine dish is required to make this delicious food, what is most important is room for the food to breathe. This means a deep skillet or enamelled cast iron vessel with a matching lid will serve admirably. It is not necessary to recreate each aspect of a cultural tradition in order to appreciate the flavours and textures that tradition offers, but we certainly don’t discourage anyone who wishes to do so. Whether you elect to cook tagine in a tagine or bring a new food tradition to your existing cooking equipment, chicken tagine with apricots and mango will offer a wonderful experience.
Butcherman Whole Chicken (approximately 2 kg)
1/3 c olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced thinly
1.5 tsp salt
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp ground cumin seed
1.5 tsp paprika (sweet or smoked as you prefer)
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 c mango chutney
2/3 c dried apricots
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 small sweet potatoes, cut into spears
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp minced coriander, as garnish
Serve over cous cous or orzo
On a clean cutting board, cut the chicken into 8 or 10 pieces, leaving the bones within. Rub generously with the salt. In your tagine or skillet, heat the olive oil. Fry the chicken until it is well-browned, and set it aside to rest.
Add the onions, ginger, and garlic to the hot oil, frying them until tender and fragrant. Then add the spices, chutney, tomatoes, sweet potato spears, and dried apricots, tossing with the sautéed aromatics until heated through. Add your chicken stock carefully to avoid splashing. Bring this to a simmer.
Once your stock has begun to bubble, add the chicken pieces carefully to the pan. Cover tightly and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste your creation and adjust the seasoning according to your needs. Replace the cover and allow the tagine to rest for ten minutes or more before ladling over rice, couscous, or orzo and garnishing with your chopped coriander.
A Little History to Digest
It is said that the tagine vessel derives from the nomadic peoples of Northern Africa, who created delicate, flavourful meals in its distinctive cone-shaped confines. Of course, the vessel appears in texts as old as the 9th century AD, such as One Thousand and One Nights. It was also referenced in court records of Harun al Rashid, a ruler of the expansive and diverse Islamic empire of that period.
This vessel is more than a simple cook pot, it is also a work of art. Many tagines are beautifully painted or lacquered, and may be displayed as a centrepiece—with or without delicious food inside. While the array of foods that may be prepared within the tagine vessel do tend to vary across the Islamic world—from the Tunisian frittata-like creation to the savoury, scoopable stews of Morocco—it is certain that the vessel itself is a fixed part of the broad array of food cultures of Northern Africa.
Traditionally, goat and lamb are the meat used in tagine stews of Morocco and the surrounding environs. While chicken is available today, it was not always as broadly used in recipes. The steamy confines of the tagine vessel are ideal for tenderizing toughened collagen fibres within the meat. The resulting food is then eaten from a communal dish with local bread or couscous. Like much of the traditional food culture, tagines are easy to eat with the fingers of your right hand.
Impress your friends and family with a delicious spin on a cuisine with a venerable and tasty history—steeped in trade caravan histories of spices, silks, and even conquest of new and delicious delicacies from the farthest reaches of three continents. Chicken tagine with mangos and apricots is surprisingly simple to create, but will leave your guests with fond memories of tender chicken and savoury sauce.