Moroccan Chicken Kdra with Saffron, Chickpeas and Rice - Project Food Blog #2

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.
I selected a classic Morocco dish: chicken kdra.  Kdra is a tagine, or rather is cooked in a tagine.  A tagine is a heavy clay pot with a cone shaped lid. (It's the pot on the cover of the cookbook.)  The lid is designed to keep moisture in the dish.  The condensation forms on the lid and rolls back down to the bottom, keeping the dish moist even when cooked for hours.  I don't have a tagine, so I'm just using a heavy bottomed pot and I'll be diligent about stirring and checking on moisture content. 

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)
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 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. 

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 4:  Add the chickpeas.  Cover and bring back to simmering, cover again and cook for 20 minutes longer.  Add the rice, stir, cover and simmer for 20 additional minutes or until the rice is tender, sauce somewhat thickened and chickpeas hot.  Then squeeze the remaining lemon over top. 

Step 5:  Make couscous.  While the chicken is in its final 20 minutes prepare the couscous by heating the broth to a boil with 1 tablespoon ghee.  Stir in cousous, take off the heat and allow to stand covered for 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork before serving. 

(The cat decided to come over and check out the dry couscous, he actually started eating it.  Then I put his leash on and put him outside. (Yes, we leash our cat.  I'll tell you why some day.))

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.

If you are a Featured Publisher at Foodbuzz, please vote for me. I’d love ya for it, I really would. 
    • Voting Opens: 6AM Pacific Time September 27th 
    • Voting Closes: 6PM Pacific Time September 30th


      1. This sounds great!! I've only tried Moroccan cuisine once but absolutely loved it. Great job.

        Oh and we leash our cat too :-)


      2. I'm so glad you ventured into Moroccan cuisine. It looks like you did an excellent job. Bravo!

        I also really enjoy the fall-off-the-bone-ness of a chicken tajine dish. it just tastes so good.

        Keep up the good work.


      3. yum! looks great! i love moroccan food! good luck with challenge 2, i will be voting for you once again!

      4. Anonymous9/26/2010

        I love Moroccan cuisine. Yours looks superb! Best of luck with the second challenge!

      5. Your dish looks really delicious! Great job and good luck on Round 2!

      6. Haha... I thought that was a leash! (We leash our cat too.)

        Your dish looks delightful!

      7. I'm glad you went with Moroccan in the end, Foy! This looks totally delicious. And I seriously recommend getting hold of a tagine - that's an investment, too!

        Also I want to know why you leash your cat...!

        Good luck ;)

        Jax x

      8. I hope the cat is not tethered so you can fatten him up for a future Project Food Blog challenge.

      9. I'd love a tagine. Yes, Gibraltar is so close to Spain so there are definitely influences in both countries. This is a delightful dish that I would love to try! Great job Foy and best wishes!!!

      10. YUMM! I absolutely LOVE Moroccan food. This looks delicious! And your photos are gorgeous.

      11. You said something about a food dehydrator in your article. Hope you have one and use it regularly. If not tell Santa to bring one early.
        Mary Dahlberg

      12. you picked the right country and the right dish!
        you got my vote!

      13. This dish looks wonderful, can't wait to try it. Best of luck making it through to the next round, you've got my vote.

      14. This looks delicious and full marks for going way out of your comfort zone!!

      15. AWESOME job! I love that you looked it up on the map - that's so adorable :) I haven't had much moroccan food but I do LOVE it and I would love to taste your dish.

      16. GORGEOUS! You got my vote...REALLY nice job:)

      17. Great dish and I like how you presented. You got my vote!

      18. I love Moroccan cuisine. Thanks for sharing the recipe. The results look fabulous. Best of luck in the challenge.

      19. It looks fantastic, thanks for sharing. Good luck in the challenge, I voted for you!

        You can see my entry at http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/973

        Hope you vote for me!

      20. Anonymous9/27/2010

        Yay! Great post! Good luck!

      21. Looks delicious! Kudos to you for letting your readers decide which cuisine to cook. I voted for you - good luck!

      22. Anonymous9/28/2010

        I have this recipe book, and it is wonderful - I love my tagine and use it when ever I can. You get my vote!

      23. Voted.

        Delicious dish! I love couscous.

        I wonder what it would taste like with preserved lemons.

      24. I'll be back to make this real soon.


      25. What a beautiful, well thought out post! You’ve got my ♥ vote! Hope we both make it to round three!

      26. Great post. I think you really tackled a challenge and nailed it. Check out my blog www.camillecares.com and youtube http://www.youtube.com/camillecares and let me know what you think. Congrats on being a contestant and I will gladly vote for you today.



      27. Your dish looks awesome and your photos are lovely. I made sure to give you a vote!
        Kellie @ Blackboard Kitchen

      28. Good Luck!! This looks awesome! I voted : )

      29. Beautiful post. You have on e of my votes. Best of luck to you.

      30. Foy - Excellent post! Your photographs are lovely!!

      31. Great job with this dish! It looks absolutely delicious! Good luck!

      32. Beautiful dish and wonderful result of the Moroccan challenge! I watch the Iron Chefs throw saffron around like it's not expensive and groan with envy.

      33. We leash our cat too, because a year ago some sociopaths went around shaving, tattooing, and raping kitties for no reason. We've also had a few cover-the-pets-with-hairspray-and-light-them-on-fire incidents. People are sick.

      34. Hi Foy Update,

        Its interesting indeed when you brought up the topic about Morocco being a neighbour of Southern Spain ~ never really thought of it that way before, until I saw the map and their proximity! I think Portugal also shares some similar spices and sauce usage similarities in their cooking compared to Morocco or other African states too, now that I think of it.

        Really like your style of down-to-earth and back to nature style of Cooking using the best local agricultural products, something we can't find in Hong Kong easily (well I grew up in Melbourne of Australia before going to work in Hong Kong, where they had more 'proper' food over there!!)

        Keep up the good job. Added you as a fan on my blog at foodofhongkong.blogspot.com !

      35. Another great and informative post! Thanks for keeping it real and being yourself in all the competition, you are doing great!

      36. This looks absolutely delicious! You've inspired me to cook Moroccan this week :)