26 July 2012

Nectarine, Plum, and Chicken Tagine


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.


Cat S. said...

I've been reading your blog for some time now as I'm a huge Middle Eastern food fan and have traveled there some. So first, I just wanted to say thank you! Your blog is a delight.

Secondly, since you mentioned harissa in this post, I was going to see if you have a recipe that you like for harissa? We just moved from Chicago where we had an incredible Middle Eastern store that sold the homemade kind and our palates are sorely suffering from lack of daily harissa. I was thinking of trying Paula Wolfert's recipe, but I welcome your suggestions.


Mouthwatering. Looks so yummy. Happy weekend.

Mercedes said...

Hi Cat! Thanks for your comments. To be honest, we buy harissa at one of the open air markets here. It's on my list to try to make my own, but we haven't gotten there yet! I'd be interested to hear what you think of Wolfert's recipe if you try it out though. Bonne chance!

lynn2mary said...

Your recipe was easy to make and extremely good tasting. I had to make some substitutions as I didn't have harissa (Cat S exactly where in Chicago is that store you mentioned?) and I used lemon zest not preserved lemons. But very,very good and extremely tasty. Thanka

lynn2mary said...

You used pearled couscous, didn't you?

Cat S. said...

Hi Mercedes- Thanks for your comment. I just made some variation of the Wolfert recipe: dried guajillo and pasilla chiles, salt, oil, caraway, cumin, coriander, and of course, garlic. I really like it, but like making Mexican enchilada sauce from scratch, the result is somewhat bitter. That's not a bad thing--just a particular part of the flavor. I really prefer the kind I bought at our Chicago Middle Eastern store, which I now know is clearly made with fresh steamed chiles. I'm going to try and buy a batch of chiles at our farmer's market this weekend and try and whip something up. Perhaps like this recipe, but minus the fresh tomato (maybe adding some sundried tomato, which I know some traditional harissa recipes do?): http://www.spicelines.com/2008/10/recipe_autumns_red_peppers_hot.htm

As a side note, there's a very interesting discussion about harissa recipes between Wolfert and some other chefs on egullet: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php/topic/50887-harissa/

Mercedes said...

lynn2marry- great! I'm glad you enjoyed it. And yes on the pearled couscous, I'll have to do a post on the different kinds of couscous here once I learn more about them.

Cat - Hmm, yeah, I know lots of people here makes their harissa with fresh red chiles, blended with oil and some other unknown spices. My impression was the dried chiles were only preferred when fresh chiles are out of season. I've never heard of adding sundried tomatoes (I don't know if you can even get sun dried tomatoes in Algiers).

Messianic Crouton said...

Delicious looking! I think I'll try it today.