Ramadan has started (رمضان كريم!), which means things have gotten quiet in Algiers - no traffic in the morning on the way to work, the pleasant silence as the sun sets for iftar. Everyone here talks about how the prices have gone up for Ramadan, and indeed they have. Food is not cheap here to begin with (fruit and vegetables are relatively inexpensive but meat and cheese prices are often more than in the U.S.), and there are lots of news stories about prices and food insecurity.
We've been here a month and we realized that we've barely had any traditional Algerian food - that is couscous and tagines and the like, and sadly most of the restaurants are closed for Ramadan. Having made a few tagines before (beef and prune, chicken with olive and preserved lemon), I was searching for a new variation. I came across this recipe for nectarines an plums (in season!) stewed with chicken, and interestingly with black olives thrown in.
Tagines are dishes that involve very little stirring or active time, the whole idea is to layer flavors in a pot and simmer them slowly until they break down into one cohesive delicious mass. I found this tagine to be particularly excellent, with the fruity sour-sweetness and pervasive spice almost like a delicate curry. The olives and preserved lemon melt into the background so that they are virtually recognizable, but they contrast the sweetness of the fruit. I highly recommend making this while good stone fruits are still in season.
Nectarine, Plum, and Chicken Tagine
Really ripe nectarines and plums should be easily peeled by just pulling the skins off. If you don't have the preserved lemon here it's okay to omit it or just substitute some lemon zest. If you don't have harissa, any chili paste will do.
olive oil, salt, pepper
4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, minced or grated
4 nectarines, peeled and sliced
4 plums, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch saffron
1/4 preserved lemon, peel rinsed and sliced
1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1 tablespoon harissa
1 tablespoon honey
chopped parsley and cilantro, for serving
1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper all over. Heat a bit of olive oil in a tagine or a large heavy-bottomed pan with a lid. Add the chicken to the pan and brown on all sides. Set the chicken aside.
2. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes, stirring occaisionally. Add garlic and ginger, stirring for a minute, then add the nectarines and plums, water, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron. Season with salt and pepper and let the mixture simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes. You may want to mash the fruit a bit to encourage it to break down.
3. Add the chicken, preserved lemon, olives, harissa, and honey. Cover the pan and simmer for 25-35 minutes, until the chicken is tender and the fruit is cooked down and stew-y.
4. Serve over couscous and garnish with parsley and cilantro.