Chicken with Prunes & Apricots (WTSIM…)

Waiter, there’s something in my… stew

(click on image for larger view and more photos)
chicken with apricots and prunes We love stew and there is often a pot of some kind of stew gently simmering on the stove. Indian curries, beef stew with mushrooms and red wine, coq au vin, chile con carne, chicken and leeks with dumplings, jerk pork, Mediterranean fish or chicken with tomatoes, etc. etc. I could fill a page just listing them all.

And invariably, especially these days, some sort of heat by way of a blackened chile pepper here or a bit of ginger there seems to sneak its way into dishes even when it’s not called for. Everything just tastes better that way. (I didn’t used to put a whole dried cayenne pepper in every stockpot but now I do. I didn’t used to drink tea made with fresh ginger every morning but now I do. )

Culinary Guide to Herbs, Spices and Flavourings Years ago, my Godparents gave us the wonderful cookbook and reference, A Culinary Guide to Herbs, Spices and Flavourings. My Godmother noted that the “Chicken (or Lamb) Couscous with Prunes and Apricots” was particularly good. And she is right! It is particularly good and has been a standard dish for everyday AND entertaining. I confess that we have never made this with lamb because try as I might, I just don’t like lamb. If I liked lamb, I feel certain it would be just as good, if not better, with lamb as it is with chicken.

Culinary Guide to Herbs, Spices and Flavourings Ever since grade 3 when I was caught filling in all the o’s and a’s in a school reader, I have been almost entirely incapable of writing in the margins of cookbooks (any books, for that matter). But I suddenly realized that these books are our books and it’s okay to make notes. (Just don’t tell my grade 3 teacher!)

We just try to make sure they are legible notes. I must say that do wish that at least one of us had the beautiful handwriting that my Godmother has!

The first time we made the stew on page 114 of The Culinary Guide etc.etc., we pretty much followed the instructions in the book. And it was quite delicious. But we knew it could be even more delicious. So the next time, T added some more spices: dried chilis, ginger, garlic, cumin and coriander. And even more delicious it was. And is every time since.

I can’t say that I’ve ever had anything quite like it in Moroccan restaurants but we really can’t think that it wouldn’t be out of place on a Moroccan table. Not that I’ve ever been to Morocco… (the closest I’ve been is to restaurants run by North Africans in France). Nor does it seem particularly Indian although it probably wouldn’t be out of place on some Indian tables either. I have been to India but do apricots and plums grow there?? But the more I think about the stew’s provenance, the more I realize that it really doesn’t matter, does it? Whatever nationality this stew is, it sure is good!

Here is our take on the recipe:

edit 19 April 2008: It turns out that there were errors in the recipe for Chicken Couscous with Prunes & Apricots. I have made the corrections now. T was VERY concerned that people wouldn’t know to blacken the chili first before adding the other spices that would be burned before the chilli got blackened. Quel horror! I do apologise profusely to anyone who made this before and ended up with burned cinnamon….

If we had had any, we would have put preserved lemons into the couscous. Unbelievable that we don’t have any!! So even though there is snow on the ground (finally it’s winter here!!), we bicycled to the fruit and vegetable store to get lemons. I just put them into their container with some French unrefined seasalt. (Remind me to post the photos… rrrr… ummmmm… eventually I’ll post what is in the increasingly bulky image folder.)

Waiter, there’s something in my (WTSIM) …

Jeanne (Cook Sister!), Johanna The Passionate Cook and Andrew (Spittoon Extra) have just launched this intriguing new food blogging event to take place each month in 2007. The first WTSIM… is hosted by Andrew. He wrote:

What is required is your take on the humble stew – a local speciality or something traditional, something seasonal perhaps, something new and adventurous or a tried and tasted recipe, created with love and devoured with passion. It is the perfect time of year, in the Northern Hempisphere at least, for warming, slow cooked, hearty food.

The deadline for WTSIM… stew is 22 January, 2007. If you would like to participate, please read the following for more information:

  • WTSIM… stew (was at spittoonextra.biz/waiter_theres_something_in_my_1.html)

(I see that Andrew has some chorizo that he plans to use in his stew for WTSIM… stew. What a great idea!!

For us, chorizo means paella! We haven’t had paella in ages!)

edit 23 January 2007: Andrew has now posted the roundup. See The Ultimate Stew Recipe Collection:

 

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  • your sister

    I can vouch for the chicken version that I had at your place once. It was _fabulous_. I tried making it myself and it didn’t come out quite right. It wasn’t as beautifully dark as yours, nor as delicious.

    I will try again.

  • ejm

    Just make sure you really blacken the chillies and brown the meat well and it should turn out. I think it also helps that T usually makes it in the morning and lets it sit on the cold stovetop during the day (or fridge if the weather is too warm) so the flavours really meld.

  • A great sounding recipe and a book recommendation, excellent! Many thanks for taking part Elizabeth.

  • I like the combination dried fruits and meat. A classic in the Maroccan cuisine. Also good with some almonds. I’will try your recipe.

  • ejm

    My pleasure, Andrew. Thank you for hosting the party.

    Good idea to add almonds, Zorra. We may just have to try that as well. Do let me know how the recipe turns out at your house.

  • Great sounding stew. I’ve never used preserved lemons, but this may be the recipe that changes that. Thanks for the tip to really brown the chili and meat. The addition of almonds suggested in comments is an interesting idea, too.

  • I like that idea, just keep adding in moe deliciousness. Great looking stew.

  • ejm

    It is indeed a great stew, Neil and Elle. Do give it a try and let me know how it turns out.

    Preserved lemons are wonderful, Elle. And the lemons that I salted last week are just now ready. Mmmm, I can’t wait! (Unbelievably, I seem to have thrown out the photos I took! I’ll have to take photos again next time… :lalala:)

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  • Tom (aka LAYLA)

    WT THE HELL IS THIS WEBSITE ABOUT IM GOING TO BE SICK YOU ARE GIVING YOUR LIVE STORY FISRT EW THE BEST THING TO DO WOULD TO JUST WRITE THE RECIPE AND MAKE IT MODERN SO THAT YOUNGER AGES WILL GO FOR IT OK.

  • Tom (aka Amiee)

    Sorry that was my sister she is very rude i know but i do think that you could change the view on your website.Thank you bye.

  • Tom

    Well done :)

    Well, I was tempted to erase your three comments, Tom, but they are just too hilarious. I particularly like the “all caps” note from “Layla” about updating the look of the site. :lalala: -ejm

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