This is a recipe I make all the time but always forget to photograph. It’s incredibly quick and impressively tasty. I remembered my camera today so I can finally share it. This is definitely a dish that takes minimum effort and delivers maximum impact; it’s also endlessly versatile, depending on what’s in the fridge.
- 1 large onion or 3 shallots
- 4 cloves of garlic in their skins
- 1 courgette
- 2 sticks of celery or similar amount of fennel
- 2 large or 4 small chicken joints, bone in
- 4 tomatoes (or a small tin or plum tomatoes)
- 1cm slice of lemon with skin cut into 8 pieces
- 6 prunes
- 10 black olives
- 1 generous sprig of rosemary
- 1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced (alter the amount according to the heat of the chilli)
- 1 tablespoon Ras El Hanout spice mix, or Harissa paste
- a few strands of saffron
- a sprig of rosemary
- generous slug of olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Patiently slice and chop all the ingredients above into large chunks and layer them in a tagine dish or in a sauce pan with a tight fitting lid. There is no need to pre-cook anything – just stack it all in the dish, distributing the ingredients fairly evenly.
- About 3 hours before you are due to eat, warm the tagine over a medium heat until the ingredients start to sizzle and you can sense they are getting warm, then turn the heat right down and cook for 2-3 hours, keeping an eye on the water levels (especially if you are using a sauté dish rather than a tagine).
- When everything smells delicious, looks meltingly tender and the meat is coming away from the bone it’s ready to serve.
- If you like your skin to be browned you can stick it under the grill at this stage, with the chicken thighs on top, to gently caramelise them.
- Although tagines are traditionally served with cous cous, I prefer to serve with a green salad, or lightly steamed broccoli.
The variations are endless depending on what you’ve got in the kitchen. Red peppers, carrots, marrow, sweet potato can all work in place of the celery and courgette. Dried apricots or figs can stand in for the prunes, orange instead of lemon, with or without olives.