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Moroccan spiced roast chicken and couscous

Serves 4 - 6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes

What could be better than a perfectly roasted chicken imbued with the fantastically aromatic spices from Morocco? This is a simple and easy roast and, paired with couscous and a fresh carrot salad, it will take your taste buds on a magical journey.

Ingredients

Method

  • Roast Chicken:
  • 1 whole chicken (buy the best quality you can afford)
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 heaped tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 heaped tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp each salt and pepper
  • ½ preserved lemon – flesh and pith removed, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted prunes, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium red onions – peeled and sliced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • Couscous:
  • 2 cups stock (or 2 cups water simmered for 15 minutes with cut onion, half carrot, stick of celery, a bay leaf, ½ tsp salt and pepper)
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • Dash of olive oil
  • Fresh parsley to garnish, roughly chopped (optional)
View the method

Roast Chicken:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.
  2. Prepare the chicken by patting it dry inside and out and removing any excess fat from the cavity opening and tail end.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the dry spices (cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, salt and pepper), preserved lemon and oil and mix to a paste. Add the prunes.
  4. Ease the skin of each breast away from the flesh, without tearing it. Using a spoon, or your hands, tuck about two or three tablespoons of the spice and prune mix under each side, pushing it down until the area is full. No need to get too fussy.
  5. The remaining spice and prune mixture can be packed into the main cavity and then, whilst there’s no need to fully “truss” the chook, I do recommend securing the legs together, with either string, toothpicks or skewers, to aid in even cooking and so that the spice mix doesn’t fall out.
  6. Scatter the sliced red onions into a roasting dish, or ovenproof casserole dish and place the chicken on top.
  7. Mix together the stock, honey and a slug of olive oil and pour this around the chicken. Cover with tinfoil or the casserole dish lid and cook for one hour.
  8. Remove the cover, reduce the temperature to 180 degrees C and cook for a further 20 - 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and dark golden on top.
  9. Before serving, baste the chicken well with the juices.

 Couscous

  1. Heat the stock until a rolling boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  2. Add the couscous in a steady stream and stir to ensure that it doesn’t clump. Put the lid on, turn the heat off and allow to sit for ten to fifteen minutes, enough time for the grains to fully absorb the stock.
  3. Lift the lid, and fluff the couscous gently with a fork and add a splash of olive oil.
  4. Transfer to an ovenproof serving dish, cover with foil and bake at 160 degrees C for a further fifteen minutes. This extra steaming step allows the grains to become truly light and fluffy and vastly improves the texture.
  5. Transfer to a serving dish, add the parsley if desired and serve immediately.

The trick to making great tasting couscous is to use a decent stock and make sure you steam it more than boiling it to end up with a glorious pile of the fluffy, light grains. It is an ideal dish to soak up the lovely juices from the roasting pan. 

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