Monday, June 30, 2008

A Middle Eastern/North African Meal

One of the things we enjoy when we are back in the States is preparing a Middle Eastern meal for family and friends. This week, I, with the help of my children, dear mother, and a few other friends, prepared and served a lunch for about 120 people. We prepared the main dish on one afternoon, the couscous another morning, and the salad was put together just before the lunch.

This year I chose some recipes which were more North African (Tunisia, Morocco) in origin, though the ingredients and flavors are found throughout the Middle East. All three recipes were inspired from those found in the Australian Women's Weekly Middle Eastern Cooking Class.

Women's Weekly Middle Eastern Cooking School Class

For the main dish we served Chicken Tagine with Dates and Honey. Tagines are slow cooked stews of North African origin, traditional cooked in special clay pots. Ours was cooked in stainless steel pots on electric burners.

Chicken Tagine with Dates and Honey

2 lbs chicken breasts cut in to strips or chunks
2 tablesppons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1/2 cup seedless dates, halved
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup blanched almonds, toasted
2 chopped fresh coriander leaves

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a pan, add chicken and cook, stirring, until browned. Remove from pan.
2. Heat remaining oil in the same pan, add onions and garlic. When onions are nearly soft, add all the spices and continue cooking, stirring, until onions are soft.
3. Return chicken to pan with stock and water and simmer covered for one hour. Remove lid and simmer for about 30 minutes or until mixture is thickened slightly and chicken is tender.
4. Stir in dates, honey, and nuts. Sprinkle with fresh coriander (cilantro).

Serves 4-6

The chicken tagine was served with couscous:

Almond Coriander (Cilantro) Couscous

3 cups couscous
3 (or 4) cups boiling water---or better, us the quantities of couscous and water as directed on the package of couscous. I usually decrease the water a bit so that the couscous isn't too wet.
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves

1. Heat water (I add a tablespoon of olive oil) to boiling. Take water off the heat, add couscous, and let sit for about 5 minutes, covered, or until the water is absorbed. Fluff couscous with a fork.
2. Heat oil in a large pan, add garlic and onions, cook, stirring, until onions are soft. Add the onion mixture to the couscous.
3. Stir nuts and coriander into the couscous mixture.

And, the salad:

Tomato, Feta, and Green Onion Salad

1 lb. feta cheese
4 medium onions
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3-4 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
3 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

1. Cut tomatoes into wedges, remove seeds, and chop tomatoes finely.
2. Whisk oil and juice in small bowl until combined; add onions and mint. Mix well.
3. Combine the mint mixture with the tomatoes and let marinate for about 1 hour.
4. Crumble the cheese in (about) 1/2 inch chunks on a plate or platter.
5. Spoon tomato mixture over the crumbled cheese and sprinkle with the toasted walnuts and sesame seeds.

Confession: If I were serve this meal to Middle Eastern friends it would be considered a light meal. Besides the three dishes above I would need to serve at least one other main dish, at least one more salad, olives, and flat bread. And even then, this amount of food would be acceptable only because I am a foreigner.

Sahtayn! (Double your health)


Jenny said...

Sounds delicious!

Circle of Quiet said...

Oh, yum! It sounds like such fun -- and such a large group!

Let's try and talk by phone sooner than later, ok? I'll email soon.

With love,