I grew up enjoying Fassi cuisine (Fes/Fez) and some of the "Casablancaise" specialties since I was born and raised in Casablanca. I never heard of oranges in a tagines until I opened "La Cuisine Marocaine de mère en fille" by Touria Agourram. What an amazing collection of recipes and stories! It has become one of my favourite Moroccan cookbooks although.
The book hasn't got a single picture but rather some drawings scattered here and there. However, it's a collection of traditional practices and recipes by cities or regions. In a nutshell, exactly what I like!
Today's recipe has oranges as topping, which is the only new thing to me, the bird is cooked as a regular Mqalli of chicken meant to go with sweet topping or garnishing.
I decided to sweeten the oranges with manuka honey 15+ although the recipe calls for only a bit of sugar to do the job. The oranges I used today were naturally sweet so it didn't really need much.
Ideally, a beldi chicken, quail or a gamy bird should be used for this tagine. For optimal taste, cook it in a tagine over charcoal or wood. But for today, I've just used baby chicken and cooked the tagine over a cooker..
Prep: 10 min - cooking: 45 - 90 min (depending on the type of bird and the use of a pot vs tagine)
For the mqalli of chicken
- 1 baby chicken (you may use a whole baby chicken or quail)
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 handful of coriander to make a small bouquet
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2/3 tsp of turmeric
- 1 tsp of ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp of ground white pepper
- A good pinch of saffron threads
- 1 tsp of sea salt or salt to taste
- 1/4 tsp of smen (Moroccan cured aged clarified butter), optional
- 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 1 tsp of good honey
For the orange topping
- 2 sweet oranges, cut in wedges, discard the white membrane
- 2/3 tsp of cinnamon
- 2 tbsps of honey ( or sugar)
- 20 g of butter
- 1 tsp of orange blossom water
- Toasted almonds or sesame seeds
Mqalli of chicken
Mix half of the spices with smen or/and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Massage the chicken pieces with it. Set aside while you chop the onions.
Place a dutch oven/deep saucepan/tagine on medium heat. Add about 4 tablespoons of water, the chopped onions, the chicken, spices and coriander. Stir it a couple of times over the heat so the spices spread evenly and coat the chicken.
Once the liquid seem to have evaporated, add the oil and pour enough water (only from the side and not on top of the chicken) to cover the bird (only 1/3 of the quantity if you are cooking in a tagine) and cover. Let simmer until chicken has cooked and the liquid has reduced. Add the honey and check the seasoning.
If you are using a tagine for this recipe, you should prepare the orange topping once you see that the tagine is almost ready.
If you are cooking this recipe in a saucepan or a dutch oven, I suggest you add an extra step: Fish out the chicken and glaze it with a tiny bit of oil. Place it under a grill/broiler for 20 min at 200 degrees C. Meanwhile, allow the sauce in the pan to reduce and thicken. Get on with the orange topping.
Heat butter, honey and cinnamon in a frying pan. add the orange wedges. Let them render some liquid and delicately flip them or they'll break. This process will take about 3 to 4 minutes on high flame/heat.
Serving the chicken with oranges
Serve the sauce first, add the chicken pieces and top with the orange wedges.
I made a reduction of orange juice by adding what I collected when cutting the orange and poured it into the pan used to make the orange topping, I waited for the water to evaporate and added it on top of the ...topping.
I also toasted some flaked almonds and caramelized some, for extra texture! Delicious!
Serve warm with bread or without..