The results are in. You guys voted on which cultural cuisine I should attempt for the second Project Food Blog Challenge: Cook a Classic Dish from another Culture. South Africa received five votes, Iraq got nine votes and Morocco wins with fifteen votes!
I know very little about Moroccan cooking other than it is exotic and spicy. I've never even eaten it, only seen it on cooking shows. Out of my comfort zone? Check. With my trusty friend Google, I started by looking up maps of Morocco. Where exactly is this country?
Morocco is one of those countries that falls on the edge of many maps. I think of it as being on the North West corner of Africa. I didn't realize it is separated from Spain by the Strait of Gibraltar or that it is so close to Italy, and Greece. Its northern border is the Mediterranean Sea so this makes sense. Normally maps divide Africa and Europe so I don't think of them as neighbors. I actually had to crop a world map to get this view that shows ALL of the countries surrounding Morocco.
The cookbook I checked out of the library, Taste of Morocco, does a wonderful job putting the food in context.
Morocco is blessed with rich resources and a vibrant food culture reflecting a grand imperialist past and a wealth of influences absorbed over the centuries from its many traders, invaders and conquering powers. Arab, Phoenician, Senegalese, Sudanese, Spanish, Portuguese, Middle Eastern and in particular, French cuisine can be traced throughout its dishes. The food is distinct, pungent, seasonal and intensely regional.
To go with the chicken kdra I'm making the national dish of Morocco, couscous. Couscous is a made from the semolina of wheat in a process kind of like making flour and then pasta. Check out this article about couscous if you want to know more: What is Couscous? For dessert we'll be having mango slices.
I was surprised I didn't need to go out and find any crazy spices other than saffron. I cook Indian curries occasionally so I already had ground ginger and turmeric on hand and there is parsley in the garden. I did have to clarify butter to make ghee, but that's pretty easy. I made ghee for my Turkish Dinner party a couple of years ago. All you do is heat the butter until it's a liquid. Let it set and then remove the solids that float to the top or sink to the bottom. See? Easy.
The result? I love chicken kdra. It's very lemony and the saffron is a spice I'm really enjoying. It has this earthy, smokey smell that does remind me of pollen. Saffron is the stamen of a certain crocus flower. Jeff says it smells a little sulfury and a little like tomatoes in the food dehydrator. At $6.99 for a half ounce, it's an investment, but it really makes this dish. The rice and chickpeas add texture and volume. The chicken is falling off the bone it is so tender. I'm definitely keeping this recipe!
Chicken Kdra with Saffron, Chickpeas and Rice
14 oz cooked chickpeas (from 1 cup dry chickpeas or 1 can)Step 1: Prepare the chickpeas. If you are using dry chickpeas, rehydrate them and then remove the loose skins. If using chickpeas from a can, pour boiling water over the chickpeas in a sieve; remove and discard as many skins as possible.
4 pinches of saffron, briefly pan-toasted
1 teaspoon sea salt crystals
3.5 pounds of chicken parts (I used 1 cut-up chicken fryer)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons ghee
2 handfuls of fresh parsley, chopped
2 Spanish onions, halved and sliced
1 ounce long-grained white rice, washed and drained
2 lemons halved
1 2/3 cups couscous
1 tablespoon ghee
2 cups chicken broth
Step 2: Prepare the chicken. Start by grinding the saffron with the salt to a powder, using a pestle and mortar. Set aside half of this mixture. To the remaining half add the ginger, turmeric, butter and parsley, stir it together. Rub this spice mixture over the chicken, coating well.
Step 3: Brown the chicken. Put the seasoned chicken, onions, and the pulp of one lemon into a large tagine or heavy bottom pan. Bring to a sizzle; cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the chicken is part browned. Turn the chicken over, add the skin of the lemon (without the white pith) and 1 1/2 cups of water.
Step 6: Finish the chicken kdra by sprinkling the remaining saffron-salt over top; cover; stand 5 minutes then serve hot with couscous.
Saha wa hana. (Enjoy your meal.)
This is my entry for the second Project Food Blog challenge! I hope you like what you read, and if you do, become a follower by clicking the “follow” button in the right hand column.