Monday, 6 September 2010

C is for... Chermoula chicken with courgette and chickpea couscous

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Chermoula Chicken


Chermoula is a North African marinade that works brilliantly with fish, lamb or chicken. It's fragrantly spicy rather than tongue tinglingly hot. For best results, marinate your chicken for several hours before cooking to allow the aromatic chermoula to work its magic, but if you're using fish, you'll only need to marinate it for half an hour to an hour. 

On C night, I made this dish with skinless breasts off the bone, which I scored and butterflied and cooked on a hot griddle. I thought the chermoula would marinate the chicken more deeply if it was skinless and thought charred tiger stripes with soft, fragrant, melt-in-the mouth chicken beneath would be just the ticket. The problem was, the marinade got too stuck to the griddle for proper tiger stripes and by the time the chicken finally cooked through, it was slightly drier than I'd have liked, but the flavour was still delicious. I've since decided that oven baked skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts would be more succulent. You can, of course, chuck some thighs and/ or drumsticks into the mix too or substitute the breasts for thighs and drumsticks all together.

1 tbsp cumin seeds, dry toasted and ground
1 tsp coriander seeds, dry toasted and ground
1 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
2- 3 inches of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
3 tsp ground turmeric
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 shallots, finely chopped
The zest and juice of 2 large unwaxed lemons
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, washed and finely chopped
1 large bunch of coriander, washed and finely chopped
2 tsp sea salt
a generous grinding of black pepper
6 tbsp olive oil

6 -8 chicken breasts on the bone, with the skins scored. 

In a large dish, mix all of the marinade ingredients together and chuck the chicken in. Massage the chermoula deeply into the chicken, ensuring that all the meat is fully coated - latex or clean marigolds would be a good move here, otherwise you'll dye your hands yellow from the turmeric. Place some clingfilm over the dish and pop it in the fridge for several hours or overnight, turning the chicken over in its aromatic bath every so often.

Once you're ready to cook the chicken, transfer it to an oven-proof dish and spoon more of the marinade over the top. Place a sheet of foil over the top of the dish and pop it in a pre-heated oven at 180 C (160 C Fan) for 25 minutes. Take the foil lid off, baste the chicken and cook for a further 20 - 25 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear.

Courgette and chickpea couscous

1 large onion, finely chopped
4 - 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 courgettes, cut into quarters lengthways and then sliced.
3- 4 tsp harissa paste
500 g couscous (to feed 6 - 7 people)
The juice of 2 lemons
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
1 - 2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
olive oil
1 1/1 pints/ 1 litre fresh chicken stock

Fry off the onion, garlic and courgette in olive oil in a large pan until soft and golden. In the meantime, place the couscous in a large bowl, pour over enough boiling chicken stock to just cover it, place a sheet of clingfilm over the top and leave the couscouse to steam for a few minutes. Stir the harissa paste, lemon juice and chickpeas into the vegetables and cook for a few minutes. Fluff up the steamed couscous and tip it into the vegetables and chickpeas. Stir it round to warm the couscous through, season and take off the heat. Drizzle over some more olive oil and lemon juice, if needed, and toss through the chopped coriander. Serve immediately. 

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