Moroccan Chicken and Couscous

Spring seems to be back!  The air is fresh and the days are beautiful.  I hope it lasts awhile.  I wasn’t ready for summer and the sticky heat.  It was lovely being in the garden yesterday getting in the last of the tomatoes.  If only we can get rid of the rabbits.  They are back!  Which means putting more bloodmeal down around the veg so they stay away.

Because it was so cool I took the opportunity to make a warming dish while I still had the chance.  My first Moroccan meal, years ago, was a dish similar to this.  We ate it with our hands round a coffee table, sitting on the floor, in the traditional way.  It was delicious.

Moroccan  chicken 1 2016

Heat up several tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Season chicken thighs with sea salt and pepper on both sides.  Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.  Brown both sides of the thighs then transfer to the oven to cook through.

Moroccan chicken 2 2016

In the skillet cook about 1/2 -3/4 cup of chopped onions and 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped until the onions have softened.  Add a few sliced mushrooms.

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Add a cup of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  I didn’t have any fresh ginger (forgot to put it on the list!) so I used ground ginger.   Start with a 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1-2 teaspoons of ground tumeric, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, and 1-2 teaspoons of paprika.  Allow to simmer for a bit.  Taste the broth and adjust the spices as needed.  At this point I added more tumeric and paprika.  Everyone’s tastebuds are different.  Moroccan chicken 4 2016

Dice up half of a red pepper, a great colour to go along with the tumeric, and add the pepper and the chicken to the broth and simmer for a few minutes.  While this had been cooking I cooked up the couscous according to the instructions on the package.

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Layer the ingredients and serve.  Make sure you put enough of the broth on the couscous as couscous can be a bit dry.  Which isn’t good for a nice meal!

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Moroccan Lamb Soup

Mother Nature has been messing with us a lot this past week.  Winter had a lot of periods of spring weather and so far spring has ushered in winter weather.  We’ve had freezing temps and snow.  Not amused!  Fortunately we haven’t had anything in the garden yet and the bulbs seem to be holding their own which is good.

It did present a perfect time for baking and soup last weekend.  I found some nice stewing lamb at the co-op and I was in the mood for Moroccan flavours.  Something to take the chill off.

This is an easy soup to throw together.  In a bowl add 1/2 a cup of flour, a tablespoon of ground tumeric, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons of paprika.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

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Mix thoroughly.  I got about a pound of lamb for this meal.  Cut it up in small pieces, an inch/2.5cm square or so.  Toss in the flour mixture to coat.

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In a large saucepan heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Brown the lamb in the saucepan for several minutes.

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Chop up a small onion and a few cloves of garlic.  Add to the pan and saute for a few more minutes.

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For some reason, I spaced on taking pictures for the next few steps.  Don’t know what I was doing!  Add 4 cups of vegetable bouillon to the pan.  I use a paste mixed with water rather than the dry cubes.  For this I kept it on the light side so the flavour was subtle.  Grate a piece of fresh ginger that is about 1 1/2 inches/3-4 cm square.  Simmer for a couple of hours at a low temp.  Cube an aubergine and add to the soup in the last hour of cooking.  After it simmers for awhile check the seasoning and adjust as needed.  I added a bit more tumeric and paprika to mine.  When the lamb is tender and cooked so it’s falling apart it is ready to serve.

Moroccan lamb soup 5 2016

You can’t go wrong with lovely crusty bread and butter with this.  As warming this soup was I am looking forward to the weather behaving itself so we can get back to grilling and salads.  I am ready for spring!

Jerk Chicken and What Kind of World

Tragedy brings out the best and the worst of us.  And it was true to form this past weekend.  After the attacks in Paris I, like millions of others, added the French flag to our profile pic on Facebook.  But I also quickly, like many, realised the hypocrisy of not speaking out against the terror in Beirut and many other countries.

And that’s when it started getting ugly.  When you combine fear with bigotry some seriously hateful things start getting posted.  It saddens me no end we have a serious humanitarian situation and we have people running for president saying we should only accept Christians.  Never mind that this isn’t a Christian nation as laid out in the Treaty of Tripoli which said this was a secular nation.  And it was ratified by 100% of the senate of the time.  That concept is being lost to the mists of time.  The West has a lot of responsibility of the vacuum that keeps being created in the Middle East but yet a lot would wash their hands of the crisis.  A situation where you have children so scared they put their hands up in fear because they think the journalist cameras are guns.

I am well aware there aren’t any easy solutions laying about.  But I do wish the powers that be would start thinking of the ramifications before they keep repeating history.  I mean how many times do we put people in power to only have to forcibly remove them.  Or how many times do we change the governments or boundaries without fully understanding the region.

Because not only do I want peace and not have people living in fear, I would love to be able to not have to figure out how to explain to my kids how much humanity is still getting it wrong.

While all this was going on we were preparing for my husband’s birthday party.  The theme?  A pirate murder mystery night.  There was a lot of planning for this as I had to assign characters for our guests and get the packets ready for each person so they knew what their objectives were for the murder and investigation.

One of our friends had great fun with doing themed food of cannon balls, shark teeth, etc.  She also did a great Minecraft themed party for her son a few weeks ago.  This is definitely up her alley.

One of the dishes I made was jerk chicken.  A great time to try using our dried habaneros.  I also used some dried cayenne.  Sinuses would be cleared for miles around.

Jerk chicken 1 2015

The recipe I used as a guide was from food.com and I followed it for the most part.  I didn’t have bay leaves but I’m not a fan of that ingredient.  I didn’t have any dried thyme either.  But I have to say the ingredients weren’t missed.

In a spice grinder, finely grind 3 habaneros and 2 cayenne peppers that have been dried.  Add that to a medium sized bowl.  Then grind rosemary and allspice so you have about a tablespoon of each.  Again add that to the bowl.  Add a tablespoon of ground ginger and a tablespoon and a half of sea salt.  Next you will need 1 1/2 teaspoons each of onion powder, black pepper, and ground cinnamon.  Add 3/4 teaspoon of each of ground nutmeg and paprika.  Finish with 1/3 cup sugar, a juice of a lime, and 1/3 cup of olive oil.

Jerk chicken 2 2015

Mix well and add about a pound and a half of chicken that you have cubed.  Make sure the chicken is well coated.  Then remember not to touch your eyes.  Ahem.  Even after washing your hands.

Jerk chicken 3 2015

Let this marinate for a couple of hours.  I chose to grill this on the stove top.  But given the potency of the hot peppers I should have done this outside.  It was like I pepper sprayed the kitchen!  What a way to welcome guests.

Jerk chicken 4 2015

I did want to do a mango dipping sauce but the mango I bought refused to ripen so it was just the chicken.

Jerk chicken 5 2015

This was a hit.  Fortunately our friends could handle the heat.  Because, while the flavours were balanced, this is not for the weak of heart.

 

Apricot Ginger Chicken and The Balance of Shopping Locally

I wouldn’t count myself as an activist.  I don’t march round with signs or knock on the door of city hall but as I get more into what goes into the food on our table I wonder if I shouldn’t be finding a way to speak up.  It perplexes me the lack of concern many have when it comes to what goes into their bodies.  Mind you, I’m not perfect.  You won’t see me giving up the Cadbury Creme Eggs ever.  The real ones, not the ones Hershey makes under license.  But overall I want the scales tipped in my favour in terms of how much good stuff we should consume.

There have been some interesting things coming out in the news lately as there is a gradual growing demand to know what is in the food.  Kashi got it’s wrist slapped because they were using GMOs.  So much for all natural.  They pledge to change.  Our co-op had a sign stating they were trying to resource some organic veg away from Cascadia Farms as they were sourcing from China.  If you look closely at their package they talk about their “home farm” being in the US.  This bothers me.  I try very hard to buy my food that was grown and produced in the US as I live here.  And if I buy imports I want to know where they came from.

The big thing we try to do is buy locally as round here there aren’t many, if any, industrial farms for meat or produce.  We get to know the farmers.  I’m currently reading “Blessing the Hands That Feed Us” by Vicki Robin. She did a month long experiment where she only ate what she could get within a 10 mile radius.  If it was produced beyond that then it was off limits.  It’s definitely food for thought.

We actually do pretty well in this department.  I think, particularly in the warmer months, the majority of our food is local.  The dilemma I face with shopping locally is the balance of organic vs nonorganic.  Is it better to buy organic that has been trucked in or local produce that has been sprayed?  We have a fabulous berry farm but they aren’t organic.  I know they try to do low impact spraying but still.  I think at the end of the day for us I’d prefer organic.  Won’t be GMO if it is organic.  But I do love our network of farms here.  It’s fabulous.

This meal that I prepared can actually be all local with the exception of two ingredients, brown rice and cinnamon.  Which isn’t too bad.  We can get local apricots here though it is an extremely short season.

I made this with lamb for Easter but the pictures were horrid.  Must have been rushing round that day.  So I decided to make the sauce again but with chicken and brown rice.

Ginger can even be a local ingredient. I need to research how to grow it in our area.  Which would be good as this ginger is from Hawaii.  It took a longer trip than my Creme Eggs.

Apricot Ginger Chicken 1 2014

Cut and peel about an inch square and set aside for grating later.

Apricot Ginger Chicken 2 2014

Mince 4 cloves of garlic and finely chop about 1/2 a cup of red onion.  Saute the onion in olive oil for a few minutes until it is softened.

Apricot Ginger Chicken 3 2014

We used chicken thighs for this and I cut them into cubes.  Start browning the chicken, when they are halfway cooked add the garlic.

Apricot Ginger Chicken 4 2014

Instead of using chicken stock like I normally would with chicken I used veg bouillon to give this dish a bit of depth.  I used about a cup.  Bring it up to a simmer and start grating the ginger.  Add between a 1/3 and a 1/2 a cup of apricot jam, preferably no sugar added or it will be very sweet.

Apricot Ginger Chicken 5 2014

Mix well and add a dash or two of cinnamon.  Cook until the chicken is done then serve over the brown rice.

Apricot Ginger Chicken 6 2014

Some may want a lot of ginger flavour so add as much ginger as you would like to your taste.  I have a feeling this sauce would work with salmon as well.  🙂

The “OMG I want the recipe!” Apple Cider Caramels

I work with a woman that brings in treats whenever we have a tax class.  Which is fabulous as she can bake!  Once she brought in these little apple cider caramels for us.  I kid you not, the reaction around the room as each person tried them was OMG!  So I asked her for the recipe and she said she found it on the blog Smitten Kitchen so off I went and did the search and found the recipe for apple cider caramels.  I finally had a chance to make them recently and not surprisingly they were a big hit.  These caramels have a wonderful burst of apple cider flavour.

As her recipe recommends, it is important to prep all the ingredients by the time the cider is ready as once the cider is reduced you need to get it all done at once.  This is not a hard recipe to do but you just need to pay attention.

Line a 13×9 inch pan with parchment paper.  It needs to go up all four sides.

In a 3-4 quart pan pour in 4 cups of apple cider (not the alcoholic kind!) and bring to a boil.

Apple cider caramels 1 2013

This needs to be reduced down to about 1/2 a cup.  No less than 1/3 a cup.  This took me about 45 minutes or so.  In the meantime I gathered the rest of my ingredients.  In a small dish I mixed 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon and 2 tsp of sea salt.  Her recipe calls for flaky sea salt which I didn’t have so I ground mine a bit.

Apple cider caramels 2 2013

In a larger bowl mix together a cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  I also set aside the 8 tablespoons of butter cut up into small chunks.

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Once the cider is reduced it should look like this.

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Stir in the butter, the sugars and 1/3 cup heavy cream.

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Once it is thoroughly mixed put it back onto the heat and bring it to 252F/122C.  This will take about 5 minutes.

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Remove immediately from the heat and stir in the cinnamon mixture.

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Pour into the pan and spread out evenly.

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I let it cool down a bit before putting it into the fridge to set completely as that is a lot of heat to throw into the fridge.  This part takes a couple of hours for it to fully set.  Once it is set remove from the fridge and pan and place on a cutting board.  Her recipe says to use neutral oil on the knife.  I didn’t have any so I used a very sharp knife to press down.  I also put some wax paper over the top so I could hold it down with my hand.  If the caramel got to soft I popped it back in the fridge for a few minutes to harden.  That way it didn’t stick to the knife so much.

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I then individually wrapped each piece in wax paper.  3-4″ square should do the trick.

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They did not last long!  🙂