Couscous with Chickpeas and Raisins with a Side of Discretion

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“For one of the problems in the communal house was that you could not just open a refrigerator when you were hungry and grab something to eat. In the first place, there were no refrigerators back then. More importantly, the entire idea behind the harem was that you lived according to the group’s rhythm. You could not just eat when you felt like it. Lalla Radia, my uncle’s wife, had the key to the pantry, and although she always asked after dinner what people wanted to eat the next day, you still had to eat whatever the group – after lengthy discussion – decided upon. If the group settled on couscous with chick-peas and raisins, then that is what you got. If you happened to hate chick-peas and raisins, you had no choice but to shut up and settle for a frugal dinner composed of a few olives and a great deal of discretion.”  from Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi

Imagine having to vote every day on your dinner choices…

Couscous with Caramelized Onion and Raisin Tfaya

4 cups water

A generous pinch of saffron

6 cloves

1/2 cinnamon stick

1/2 tsp peeled, grated ginger

2 large carrots, sliced

1 turnip, cubed 

10 sprigs fresh cilantro 

10 sprigs fresh parsley

1 can chickpeas, drained

Salt and pepper to taste

4 skinless chicken thighs

1/2 cup raisins

1 red onion

1/4 cup honey

1/2 tsp peeled, grated ginger

1/2 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup slivered almonds

2 boxes of couscous, cooked according to the box instructions (I used Near East, since that was all I could find in my local store)

4 hard boiled eggs, cut into quarters

Boil the water with all ingredients up to the chicken thighs.  There is a trick to braising meat that will keep it from getting tough; boil with the lid on for 30 minutes, and the lid off for another 30 minutes (this also works with beef).  While the chicken is cooking, soak the raisins in warm water for 10 minutes.  Saute the onion over low heat until it begins to caramelize naturally.  Add the drained raisins, honey, ginger, cinnamon, and almonds and cook until everything is good and caramel colored.  This will take about 30 minutes.  

When the chicken is done, remove the carrots, turnip, and herbs from the broth and discard, reserving the chickpeas, chicken and the broth.  Arrange the food on the plate in the following manner:  Create a ring of couscous, then place a chicken thigh in the center and sprinkle with chickpeas.  Top the chicken with the onion mixture.  Place 4 egg quarters around the edges of the plate and ladle broth over the whole thing.  

My friend Katie is a vegetarian, so I actually boiled the turnip, carrots, and chickpeas separately, then added the chicken later.  When I saw how good the veggies looked, it seemed a shame to waste them.  Katie got just veggies in the middle of her couscous ring and my other diners got both chicken and veggies.  Either way, the meal was enjoyed by all and nobody had to use any discretion.

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Filed under Books, Chicken, Cooking and Reading, Food, Moroccan Food, Recipes

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