So yesterday Lundulph asked me to do something special and started going through my cookery books. He finally stopped at a dish called Kefta Mkaouara, from Rick Stein's Mediterranean escapes. This is a tagine with meatballs, a fairly simple recipe calling for beef or lamb mince. But Lundulph asked me to use chicken instead. In the same breath he also stated that the problem with chicken is that it doesn't pick up flavours and ends up tasting quite bland. Hmmm...
Now I'm not a fan of chicken mince, so no way I'd make meatballs from chicken.instead I decided to cut the meat in chunks. But not the usual 2.5 cm chunks, but quite a lot smaller. And in hindsight, this made a huge difference, because the tagine sauce is quite spicy, so the balance was very good.
Lundulph originally thought this would go in the gyuvetch dish, but it is a tagine and according to the recipe it doesn't bake for very long, so I opted to use my large shallow pie dish instead.
800 g chicken breasts
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp hot chilli powder
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion
2.5 x 400 g cans of tomatoes
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
3 garlic cloves
- Trim the chicken breasts as much as possible and cut into small pieces, about 1 cm in size.
- Heat up 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large pan on medium heat and fry the chicken together with 2 tsp of the cumin, the hot chilli powder, 1 tsp of the paprika, 1 tsp of the ground pepper and the salt. Keep stirring so that the spices coat the chicken and all the pieces are browned.
- Remove the chicken to a large oven proof dish, add the remaining olive oil, heat it up and add the onion. Turn down the heat a little and fry the onion for about 10 minutes until it is soft, stirring occasionally.
- In the mean time, blend the tomatoes and garlic and add to the onions, once soft. Add the remaining spices, stir to blend well and let cook for about 20 minutes.
- While the sauce is cooking, pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
- When the sauce has thickened a little, pour it over the chicken, then make four small indentations and crack carefully an egg in each.
- Bake in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes to set the eggs.
Yesterday turned into a general cooking and baking day, we were low on bread, so I made a double dose of Richard Bertinet's olive oil bread from his book Dough. This time I mixed all ingredients except the olive oil in the machine, until the gluten had almost developed. It was a very stiff dough, so it took a while. I then turned it out onto my baking board and added the olive oil, a little at a time and kneading as much as I could, it was quite slippery. This is the best way to do it, as any fat tends to make it harder for gluten to develop, so should be added at the end. Previously I've always attempted to let the machine do this and it never works, finally I've learnt my lesson. This of course meant kneading by hand for another 10 - 15 minutes, but it's well worth it. I also decided to make the loaves a little fancier, like I've seen on several bread blogs - the dough for each loaf is divided into 3 equal parts and each is rolled up into a mini loaf and placed in the bread tin.
The bread turned out rather lovely, even though I only had 20 g of fresh yeast for it, instead of the 30 g in the recipe. It just needed to rise a little longer.
So we had the chicken tagine with our freshly baked bread and it was very yummy. Lundulph had a large seconds and declared that this is a keeper and I must admit, I felt very pleased too.
Next time, I'll reduce the chicken to 500 g or even 400 g and add some vegetables and also some pearl barley, the sauce was a bit too runny, Lundulph thought. I like to dip bread in such sauce, so for me it was just right.