Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The "Kenya meets Morocco" meal


DISCLAIMER: Couscous is a dish made from tiny granules of durum wheat. It is closely related to pasta, as durum wheat is the same type of wheat that is most commonly used for making pasta. Couscous originated in North Africa. I normally cook with traditional couscous. However, I was out of luck this weekend. My local grocery store had run out of traditional couscous and only had whole wheat Israeli couscous. How different could that be-right? Couscous by any other name...Anyway, Israeli couscous is a variation on the traditional couscous. Despite the larger pearl-like granules of the Israeli couscous, the darker color and the slightly chewier texture, I figured it was healthier (since it was whole wheat), and I made it work. So I hope I won't get pelted with vicious words because this does not look like the couscous you ate at the Moroccan restaurant in Marrakesh one day. No sacrilege was intended during the making of this meal. I know how sensitive people can be about their food, so I thought it wise to address this. I used the package instructions to prepare the couscous (as with this pack, I was cruising in unfamiliar territory), and threw in a few extras to make it my own. I was determined to take my taste-buds on a safari to Morocco and by God, I would make it happen (traditional couscous or not)! The idea was to make a "Kenya meets Morocco meal". So if you would like to replicate the idea, please use the North African variety of couscous :-)

Now that that's out of the way, I shall resume my normal "conversation". Africa is a vast and expansive continent. One of the things in my bucket-list is to visit every corner of Africa some day. But until I gather enough resources to do so, I can dream, can't I? If I can't physically be there, at least I can eat like I'm there. So this weekend, I decided to make a whole meal that involved the following:
Kenyan sauteed cabbage and peppers.
Kenyan style chicken curry.
Citrus Couscous (my aim was to cook Moroccan couscous).
Tfaya (Moroccan caramelized onions, raisins and aromatic spices).

After all the preparation was done, cooking the whole meal took a total of 35 minutes. Which was not bad at all. The end result was a delicious meal whose heady aroma of spices filled the whole house. The chicken was fall off the bone tender, the cabbage was just right with a slight crunch and some kick from the chili I used to cook it. The couscous had a slight citrus aroma and a great nutty taste and the tfaya...I think that may have been the crown on top of this regal meal. It was to die for! The colors from the spread were vibrant and appealing. Just like I've pictured Marrakesh market square in Morocco to look like in my mind's eye. 

What a winning combination!! This is a culinary safari I will be taking again. The beauty of it? No passport is required :-)

SERVING SIZE: Feeds 4-6 sufficiently.

-2 large pots (one with a lid, one without).
-1 medium pot with a lid.
-1 saute pan with a lid.
-Cooking spoons.
-Box grater (for grating carrots).
-Zester for zesting your orange.
-Cutting board.
-Sharp knife.


-4 medium onions, finely sliced.
-2 tablespoons of butter (for cooking tfaya).
-1/4 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water for 1 hour and drained (for t'faya).
-1 tablespoon turmeric.
-1 tablespoon ginger powder.
-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
-1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.
-1/4 - 1/2 cup water (depending on weather your saute pan is non-stick).
-2 tablespoons of granulated sugar (plain, regular sugar).
-1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water (don't add too much or your food will taste perfumy..eew!).

-In the saute pan on medium heat, melt the butter and add the onions.
-Stir around until the onions start to get a golden color.

-Add the water.
-Add the turmeric and stir. Let it cook for 2 minutes.
-Add the other spices and stir as you add them (ginger, cinnamon and black pepper).


-Add the raisins to the onion/spice mix. Stir.
-Cover the saute pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow to cook for 45 minutes and check often and stir.
-After 45 minutes, the onions should be soft. Add the sugar and stir.
-Add the orange blossom water and stir. Cover and let simmer on medium-low heat for an additional 20 minutes. Once the 20 minutes is up, turn the heat off and set aside. Your t'faya is ready to garnish the other meals.                                          

-2 1/2 lbs chicken (I used a pack of chicken wing sections).
-1/2 a large onion, finely diced.
-1 can (14.5 oz) diced, peeled tomatoes (half for cooking chicken, half for cooking cabbage).
-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (I use Canola).
-1 teaspoon ginger/garlic paste.
-1 teaspoon curry powder.
-1 teaspoon ground cumin.
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
-1/2 teaspoon coriander powder.
-1/2 teaspoon garam masala.
-1 tablespoon salt (I use Kosher salt).
-1/2 a bunch of chopped cilantro (coriander leaves).
-1/2 cup water (more if you like a lot of stew).
**If you add more water than the recommended 1/2 a cup, you will need 1 tablespoon of cornstarch (corn flour), mixed well with 1 teaspoon of water to add to your sauce. This will thicken your sauce. Curry sauce is not supposed to be runny. Make sure to mix the water/ cornstarch well or else you will end up with lumps in your sauce.**

-In the large pot with a lid, heat up the oil over medium heat.
-Add the diced onion and stir until light golden brown.
-Add the ginger/garlic paste and stir. Let it cook for 2 minutes.
-Add the peeled, diced tomatoes and stir.
-Add the curry powder, stir and let cook for 2 minutes.
-Add the cumin, cinnamon, coriander powder and garam masala. Stir.
-Taste for salt. Then add the salt to your liking.
-Add in the chicken pieces and stir well, ensuring that the pieces of chicken are well coated with the spice mix.

-Add the cilantro and stir.
-Add the water, stir and cover. Let the chicken simmer on medium-low heat for 35-40 minutes until the chicken is tender when pierced with a fork. Check back occasionally to stir.


-1 medium head of green cabbage (thinly shredded/cut).
-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
-1/2 a large onion, finely diced.
-1/2 can diced, peeled tomatoes.
-1 tablespoon tomato paste (I bought a small can).
-1/2 a bunch of finely chopped cilantro.
-1/2 thin cut red bell pepper (red capsicum).
-1/2 thin cut green bell pepper (green capsicum).
-4 medium carrots (peeled, washed and large-grated).
-1/2 teaspoon turmeric.
-1 tablespoon curry powder.
-1/2 teaspoon red chili powder.
-1 tablespoon salt.

-In a large mixing bowl. combine your shredded cabbage, chopped cilantro, sliced peppers and grated carrots. Toss with your clean hands until the cabbage is colorful as shown below.

-In the large uncovered pot, heat the oil on medium heat.
-Add the diced onions and stir. Cook until they are transparent (do not let them burn!)

-Add the diced, peeled tomatoes and stir.
-Add the turmeric, stir and let it cook for 2 minutes.
-Add the curry powder and chili powder, stir and let it cook for 2 minutes. 
-Add the tomato paste and stir until well combined with the spice mixture.
-Add in the cabbage/peppers/cilantro/carrot mix and stir well. make sure that the cabbage mix is well coated with the spices.
-Add the salt a little at a time and taste as you add to ensure that it is to your liking.
-Do not add any water as the cabbage has enough moisture of it's own. 
-Let the cabbage cook (uncovered) for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally. The cabbage will eventually wilt down. You want your cabbage to be "al dente". Such that when you bite into it, it is cooked yet there's a slight crunch and it is not mushy. 
-Your cabbage should be done after 15-20 minutes. 


**I intended to use Moroccan couscous, but did not have any. Since I used Israeli whole wheat couscous, I followed the package instructions to cook it (except for the orange zest and ghee).**

-1 cup couscous (I used whole wheat Israeli couscous shown below).

-1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
-Zest (orange part only) of one orange.
-1 teaspoon salt.
-2 cup hot water.
-1 teaspoon ghee (clarified butter. This is optional).
-A pinch of saffron strands (optional).

-Heat the oil in a pot on medium heat.
-Add 1 cup couscous and stir for one minute.
-Add 2 cups boiling water and 1/4 teaspoon salt (I found after adding this amount of salt, you could not taste anything so I added a total of 1 teaspoon).
*At this point, I added the orange zest and saffron just for more flavor (these two ingredients are optional).
-Reduce to low heat and cover the pot. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.

-Leave the pot to rest 4-5 minutes before serving.

You are now ready to assemble your meal. I had plans to beautifully layer the whole meal in my tajine (North African clay pot with a conical lid and a round base). However, I realized at the last minute that the couscous was not nearly enough to make a substantial base on which to lay the chicken. So I went with what you see below. I served the couscous on a Moroccan serving bowl and the chicken at the base of the tajine. I topped the chicken with the tfaya. The  cabbage got it's own stark white bowl. It was all served family style and might I add, to a very happy family :-)