Something strange happened to our chilli plant. It went on holiday to my parents’ house for two weeks (while we holidayed in France for two weeks), and while sunning itself in their conservatory our humble little green jalapeños turned red! We bought the plant early last summer and had a generous crop of mild, but delicious jalapeño peppers for months. It stopped flowering over winter, but came back with gusto this summer and we began to use the green chillies again. I don’t know if the plant needed time to mature, or if it was the intense sun and warmth of the conservatory, but either way we returned to a glamorous plant bejewelled with fiery red chillies…
We’ve used some of the red chillies in stir-fries and curries, or fried them with garlic and kale for a simple side dish, but we used the final one (for now) to flavour this gorgeous chicken tagine. This is an amalgamation of a few different tagine recipes, and is also inspired by a tagine I was served by friends and one we had in our riad in Marrakech last November. It combines sweet honey, sharp preserved lemons, hot chilli and salty olives with succulent chicken legs and, with the essential addition of ras el hanout (a North African blend of spices), feels like an exotic treat. It’s a great dish for serving a large group, but the chicken is also perfect as leftovers for lunch salads or sandwiches during the week. My favourite bit is the plentiful gravy that surrounds the chicken legs by the end of cooking, and in my opinion requires a great hunk of crusty bread for dipping.
One year ago:
– Fennel and courgette salad (using red chilli, funnily enough!)
– Spanish prawns and chorizo
Ingredients (serves 4-5)
5 chicken legs (skin on)
4 small cloves of garlic, crushed
Thumb-size piece of ginger, grated
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
1 generous tsp ras el hanout
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
5 tbsp olive oil
2 small white onions
1 red chilli
1 medium tomato
7 half slices of preserved lemons
15 green olives
1. Place the chicken in a large bowl or tub (or the container it came in!) and add the marinade ingredients (garlic, ginger, honey, cumin, turmeric, ras el hanout, salt, pepper and olive oil).
Mix very well so all the chicken is coated and then cover and set aside to marinade at room temperature for as long as you can – at least an hour is ideal, but you can prepare as far in advance as the night before (in this case put the chicken in the fridge overnight but remember to take it out a few hours before cooking so it can come back to room temperature).
2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Thinly slice the onions and place at the bottom of your tagine.
3. Prepare the chilli and tomato – deseed both and thinly slice.
4. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and brown the chicken legs on both sides over a medium heat. You might need to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan. Don’t worry if the skin looks a bit black – this is the sugar in the honey caramelising – just don’t actually burn the flesh!
5. Arrange the chicken legs on top of the sliced onions in the tagine.
6. Scatter over the chilli, tomato, lemons and olives and pour in the water.
7. Place the lid on the tagine and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
Take the tagine straight to the table for dramatic effect, and serve with fresh, crusty bread or a big bowl of couscous, and a herby green salad.