What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper?
– J R R Tolkien –
I became an enthusiastic cook during my years on that small island off the coast of Nigeria and it was because I found myself up a creek without a paddle. Almost no fresh vegetables, fresh anything at all, ever came our way. Other ingredients were subject to where the person/company running the shop was from. There was a period when it was American, and we had Bisquick and tinned Oxo pies and then that passed and after some time we moved into our Indian period. I liked that, for the first time in my life I was cooking with ghee and using recipes that felt like magic spells! For example: take eight cardamom pods, three star anise, two cloves and off you went muttering eye of newt and toe of frog as you flung these wonderful things into a hot pan! Of course, we discovered that we could cook lovely things like tagines with those ingredients as well as the fragrant curries.
This morning I contemplated supper and realised I needed to use up some chicken that was overstaying its welcome in the freezer. There was enough of it so I could share some with my daughter and her family. And then I remembered a half packet of dried apricots in the store cupboard, and it was a short hop to tagines and my happy times in West Africa!
My go to place for recipes that work is Recipetineats (www.recipetineats.com). Nagi creates lovely food and recipes that work in ordinary kitchens. And that is where I found this Chicken Tagine recipe. Onions, garlic, chicken pieces, tomato, apricots (I had to add raisins because my apricots came short) chickpeas and of course the magic bits! Listen to this: cinnamon, ginger, cumin, clove, pepper, allspice AND coriander! Arabian nights no less!
And so on to chopping onions and soaking apricots, measuring the spices. Browning the chicken pieces and putting it all together. The happy progression of tasks that with a little bit of luck and the wind at your back culminates in supper!
Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need
– Julia Child –