I love the taste of North African flavors. One of my top favorites is Moroccan food. The spice selection is so beautiful and fragrant. I live on a small island in Mid-West Norway. It's safe to guess we're not awash with Moroccan restaurants and my local food shops are not filled with the spice mixtures for this cuisine. On plus side, I was able to get all but one of the spices needed to make my own Moroccan mixture. I have a large container of All Spice in my pantry.
Moroccan Spice Mixture
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon fine ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
I'm not an expert on North African food. I know some of the staples of the diet and decided to use my imagination to put together a dish that would make me and my taste buds happy. I created this dish because I was going to visit some really good, foodie, musician friends in Maastricht, Bart & Petra and I wanted to make something extra special. I decided on using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, lentils, couscous and I added a cool, minty version of tzatziki to go with it.
I pounded the chicken breasts nice and flat and rubbed them down with the spice mixture and olive oil, sprinkled with some cilantro (coriander) leaves, 1 clove finely minced garlic, 1 thinly sliced red onion and 1 medium peeled, thinly sliced sweet potato and covered to let it marinate for at least 2 hours.
Lentils soak and cook quickly. They are one of my favorite legumes! I soaked these for about 4 hours and they were ready to roll. I made a mixture of 1 small onion, 2 cloves garlic, red bell pepper, 1 medium carrot, 1 stalk celery, parsley, mint, cumin, salt, and red pepper, put it into my food processor with a splash of olive oil and pulsed it a few times and added it to a sauce pan over medium high heat. Saute the mixture for about 10 minutes and then add the soaked and drained lentils and cover with water or broth, about 1-1/2 inches, turn down the heat to medium, cover the pan and let it cook until all of the liquid is reduced, occasionally stirring and checking to make sure it doesn't stick. Usually about 45-60 minutes.
For the couscous, prepare according to package directions. I use 2 parts liquid to 1 part couscous. When the liquid comes to a boil, I added minced onion, salt, white pepper to taste, 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and 2 handfuls of fresh spinach, pour in the couscous and stir well, cover and remove from heat for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the cover and fluff the couscous.
I preheated the oven to 195C and put in the chicken, covered for 35-40 minutes.
While the chicken is in the oven I made my mint tzatziki. 1 cup yogurt, 3 cloves crushed garlic, salt & pepper to taste, 1 medium cucumber grated and 1 tablespoon minced mint leaves. Mix well and refridgerate until it's time to serve.
These flavors are so beautiful and rich but also super healthy. This dish was a hit with my friends and it will definitely make an appearance again. I'm also looking forward to using this spice mixture on lamb.
Now, go cook, eat and start a revolution!