Friday, 24 June 2011

Turkey Tagine

I'm sure I've mentioned before how middle aged we are - favoured weekend activities include afternoon tea at National Trust properties, going to the tip and getting up at a sensible time. You didn't come to this blog for rock and roll, did you?

Anyway, another parent-like habit we've developed is cooking big batches of food at the weekend to bung into the fridge or freezer. There they lie, smugly prepared and reasonably healthy, ready to be reheated after work for nights during the week when we're too tired or busy to cook but still want a proper meal.


We have a few regular candidates for this weekend culinary escapade, including chilli con carne and a lovely beef casserole. This tagine wins the prize for being the most middle-aged though, because we make it in a slow cooker. That's right, an actual specific countertop appliance like my parents use. Have you lost interest yet?

Well don't turn away, because this is delicious. I'm not sure how authentic it is as a tagine - not very, I suspect - but it's really quick to prepare, very tasty and just right for a cold winter (or summer) night. We make it with both chicken and turkey, and alter the vegetables depending on what we have in the house, but the basics are meat, onion, carrot, dried apricot and chick peas. And then there's the question of the spices.

I should point out that this recipe came from my Dad (and he got it from some recipe book designed specifically for slow cookers), and the first few times we tried to recreate it in our own flat, we were disappointed. It was still nice, yes, but it tasted a bit - dull? Muted? Bland? We checked the recipe, and double-checked it, and we were sure we were doing it right, but it just didn't taste like Pa's. So we asked him.

Turns out he'd misread "teaspoon" as "tablespoon" and had been turbo-charging the spicing for years. And he was right to do it! The slow cooker has many excellent qualities - meat comes out so tender, you wouldn't believe it - but it does have a tendency to dampen down flavours so you really need to over-compensate. And yes, admittedly he hadn't done it on purpose, but it was still a stroke of genius. Inadvertent genius.

We've had this just with steamed veg and couscous for a simple worknight dinner, or made it in vast quantities to serve at a dinner party, preceded by mezze and accompanied by flatbreads, yoghurt and tarted-up couscous (ie: with pomegranate, cucumber and herbs). Either way, we like it a lot. But then we also like a nice cup of tea and a sit down, so who are we to judge? 

Chicken or Turkey Tagine
Makes 4 big servings

- 1 pack of turkey/chicken breasts or thighs (they'll all work)
- flour, salt, pepper
- a couple of onions, chopped quite large
- 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- a few carrots, cut into chunks
- a cinnamon stick
- a tablespoonful of ground cumin
- a tablespoonful of ground coriander
- a tin of tomatoes
- a handful of dried apricots, chopped quite small (they swell as they absorb the liquid)
- 300ml of chicken stock
- a tin of chick peas (you can add two tins if you want to bulk it up a bit - we did, here)

In a big pan, fry the onions and garlic until browned and then chuck into the slow cooker. If you're not going to use a slow cooker, get a big casserole pot and preheat the oven.

Cut the meat into chunks and scatter with a tablespoonful of flour, plus some salt and pepper. Toss it around then put into the empty pan with a bit of oil and fry until browned. Add the carrot, and spices, cook it for a few minutes while stirring frequently, then slop in the tomatoes, apricots and stock. Bring back to the boil, then transfer to the slow cooker for 3-5 hours on medium (or the oven for about 2 hours on a low heat), adding the chickpeas about an hour before it's done.

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