Cast iron cooking: Spiced Chicken Tagine
I have become a cast iron convert. A Thursday night dash into a post-Christmas sale at Kitchen Compliments on Chatham Street in Dublin led to me becoming the proud owner of an oval “Racing Green” enamelled cast iron Chasseur casserole dish (the Chasseur range is like Le Creuset but a little cheaper). Well, I started off being proud until I realised how heavy it was and that I had to drag it – with the Boyfriend’s help – to an opening at an art gallery, all the way round the (very large) exhibition, to the after-opening drinks in a local pub, and into a bad Mexican take-away on its way home to my kitchen. It survived its eventful night out in Dublin and, since then, has been put to use on many occasions, some of which have, again, involved trips across town.
This Spiced Chicken Tagine, inspired by Julie Le Clerc’s recipe for Spiced Chicken with Apricots and Chickpeas, was the first dish I cooked using my cast iron pot. Being a terribly lazy cook (and refusing to use a dishwasher!), I love when I can use one pot from start to finish. No special serving dishes for me, thank you, as meals normally arrive on the table in whatever they’ve been cooked in – a “Racing Green” casserole in this case.
One of the first guests I cooked this for – my cousin’s husband – is chilli-intolerant so, unlike many of my recipes, this is not hot-spicy. The ginger and cinnamon give it more of a mellow, laid-back, warm spicy flavour. I normally serve it with roasted vegetables – carrots and squash are current favourites – tossed in a little olive oil and a sprinkling of cumin, and a Spinach Bulgar Pilaf or piles of plain buttered couscous.
As with all casserole-type dishes, this Spiced Chicken Tagine gets tastier if made the day before you need it. Depending on the chicken pieces that you use, this can be a little fatty so an overnight sojourn in the fridge lets any excess fat rise to the top and solidify so that you can remove it easily. If you’re not that organised – and I rarely am – you can just use a spoon to skim any fat off the surface before you serve up.
Spiced Chicken Tagine
Chicken thighs and legs – 8
Onions – 2, sliced
Garlic – 3 cloves, sliced
Ground ginger – 2 teaspoons
Ground coriander – 2 teaspoons
Ground turmeric – 2 teaspoons
Ground cinnamon – 2 teaspoons
Ground cumin – 2 teaspoons
Dried apricots – 150g, chopped
Chickpeas – 1x 400g can, drained and rinsed
Stock – 1 litre, chicken or vegetable
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 190°C. Heat a large heavy-based casserole dish, add a little oil and brown chicken pieces over a moderate heat for 2-3 minutes on each side. Set aside and pour off excess fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the casserole.
Cook onions and garlic on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes until softened but not coloured. Tip the spices into the dish and fry for 1 minute. Add the chicken, apricots and chickpeas, pour over the stock and bring slowly to the boil.
Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Leave in peace for 60-70 minutes until the chicken is well cooked and meltingly tender. Before serving, taste the sauce and season if necessary.
Serve with roasted vegetables and bulgar pilaf or plain buttered couscous.