I’ve always been a self-talker, I’d like to believe, in a good way. I am the kind of person who would not fall asleep at night until I think about everything I had done on that day and ask myself if I had handled things the best way possible. I like to constantly ‘check in’ with myself. This self-talk business has intensified recently and I’m not too sure why, but I think it started unconsciously a few months ago after I witnessed my best friend’s mother -who was a very special person to me- taking her last few breaths after a long horrific battle with illness. Her whole journey was, as they say, a wake-up call for me and I believe for many people who were close to this amazingly strong woman. Her life story has inspired and still inspiring others. The way she lived her life from a very young age, and the way she handled her journey with cancer deserve to be written in a book, and that’s what her daughter is busy doing right now, writing her mother’s story .. and I cannot wait to read it.
I have recently started putting things in perspective. I felt like I had to take a step back and really focus on what’s vital in my life and what’s not. I began to search for the perfect way of life. And by a gradual process I came to understand that the pursuit of simplicity is the right way for me to live comfortably with my inner voice.
Little by little, I started realising that we actually don’t need that many things to live, that the less we own the greater our sense of freedom and gratitude. I admit -hand on heart- that learning to live the simple life our parents and grandparents once lived, is not a simple task nowadays. However, there are a few things that we can change if we really are seeking the joys and benefits of a meaningful and more natural existence. The most important, in my opinion, is to identify what we need and what we want, and get rid of the endless temptations -what we want- which are slowly ruining our lives without us even realising.
One of the things I find brings extreme comfort and satisfaction to my life is keeping to my favourite rituals. Most of them are food related, comes as no surprise I guess. For example, preparing an authentic dish like the one I’m sharing with you here, hopefully shortly, is something I do quite often now. Another one I have recently added to my weekly rituals, and I absolutely love it, is buying fresh flowers on Saturdays from the markets, and arranging them myself. I believe it adds more life and light to my home. It might be something simple that you like doing regularly, but the amount of satisfaction it brings to your heart is priceless. I am still learning and I know I have a long way to go but I am enjoying the journey to a better and more meaningful life..
If you are a self-talker like myself, or if you think any of my words above make any sense to you, please share your thoughts by commenting below. I would love to hear from you.
Now the Chicken Tagine folks !!
The Moroccans love their Tagine, their most popular cooking utensil. It is an earthenware pot with a triangular shaped lid that cooks food slowly and deliciously. I bought mine last week from a Moroccan guy named ‘Hassan’, who has a beautiful Moroccan-style tent in the markets now, and he sells some stunning oriental pieces. Hassan spoke in Arabic to me as soon as he knew I was Egyptian, he even tried to speak the Egyptian accent – I love it when people do that- he made me feel very welcomed in his little tent, and he also gave me a very special price for the tagine, just because he loves Egypt.
When I asked him for the Tagine, he goes: what are you cooking in it?
I go: Chicken.
He says: do you know how to cook it the Moroccan way?
I go: look, it’s my first time cooking this dish, but I have the original recipe and I promise I will try my best.
Still curious .. he says: what’s the marinate?
I go: Chermoula! -I think I pronounced it wrong- oops!
Then he goes : Chermouullaa (with a big smile and thumbs up): it will be delicious! just make sure you add preserved lemon and green olives.
I go: got it -thumbs up-
He also advised me on how to prepare the tagine before cooking in it. All I needed to do is to hydrate the tagine and that’s by soaking it in water for a few hours or over night. Done!
- If you don’t have a tagine to cook in, you can replace it with a slow cooker or a heavy duty oven dish (stoneware would be ideal) deep enough to fit the ingredients, cover very tightly, and cook on low-medium heat for the same time, or until chicken is cooked through and the water is reduced.
- It is not recommended to use tagines on electric stoves, as there should be a small space between the bottom of tagine and the heat, so best to be used on charcoal barbecues or on gas stoves.
- This dish is best served with couscous, check the recipe card below for the easiest way to make couscous.
- FOR THE 'CHERMOULA'
- 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped
- 1 preserved lemon, sliced.
- 1 large brown onion, chopped coarsely
- 1-2 fresh small red chillies
- 1 tablespoon ground paprika
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra for adjusting seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 bunch fresh coriander (with stems and roots for extra flavour), chopped coarsely.
- 1/2 a bunch fresh parsley leaves, chopped coarsely
- a pinch of saffron threads (soaked in warm water for 10 mins)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 bay leaves, each cut in half.
- 1.5 whole medium size chickens, cut in small pieces (wings, drumsticks, thighs, breasts), bones in.
- 2 medium potatoes, cut in medium sized wedges.
- 1 onions, sliced into wedges
- 3 tomatoes, sliced
- FOR THE GARNISH
- 10-15 pitted green olives
- a handful of coriander leaves, coarsely chopped.
- 1 onion thinly sliced into rings
- 1 tomato, cut into rings
- FOR THE COUSCOUS
- 2 cups couscous
- 2 cups boiling water
- a pinch of salt
- 1 preserved lemon cut in half.
- In a deep bowl, add all the Chermoula ingredients one by one.
- Transfer all ingredients to a blender and blend for 10 -15 seconds or until finely chopped and combined.
- Add 3 tablespoons of Chermoula to the chicken pieces, massage on top of and under the skin with the marinate until all covered.
- preserve the rest of marinate on the side for later.
- Cover chicken and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- When chicken is ready to cook, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of Chermoula with the onions and tomatoes wedges, then add them to the base of tagine (acts as a barrier between chicken and heat).
- sprinkle a pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper on top
- Arrange the marinated chicken on top as shown in pics above
- Add the potato wedges and green olives by arranging them around and in between the chicken pieces.
- Add a pinch of salt again for the potatoes.
- Layer the onion and tomato rings in the centre.
- Add a handful of fresh coriander leaves and half a cup of filtered water to the rest of the Chermoula mixture and pour on top to finish off.
- Transfer the tagine to the stove(direct heat, but make sure there is a little gap between the fire and the tagine), cover with lid and cook on low heat for an hour and 15 minutes.
- 20 mins before the chicken tagine is ready to serve, add the dry couscous to a heat proof dish or a pot.
- Add a pinch of salt, preserved lemon halves and 2 cups of boiling hot water, stir quickly and cover tightly
- Leave to rehydrate for 6-10 mins or until the liquid is absorbed.
- use a fork to separate the grains.
- Divide the couscous among serving dishes, then top with the chicken mixture.
- Serve with some fresh coriander leaves.
- It is not recommended to use the tagine on electric stoves, as it is best to leave a tiny space between the heat and the bottom of the tagine.
- If you don't have a Tagine, you can replace it with a slow cooker or you can use the oven on low heat (160) for the same amount of time or until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid is reduced.
- The 2 hours and 20 mins preparation time written on the recipe card, includes the 2 hours required to marinate the chicken.