When my mum first started making this one pot curry a few years ago, spice mixes like bahaarat and dukkah were still fairly new to our kitchen. Purple sumac and dark zaatar were the only spice mixes we turned to, and the salad that got tossed every time we had more than one herb leftover, was always fattoush- a well tossed, aggressively sour, herby salad with toasted bread.
Around this time, we had also started making our own harissa paste and it seemed natural to add a spoonful into this delicate stew of chicken, dates and apricots to transform it completely. Pickled lemons and chilli, earthy beans, chicken and root vegetables come together over a slow sim to make this family favourite stew that you can enjoy with bread or rice over several winter evenings. It’s very North African to throw together a tagine dish such as this, and indeed, I do believe this recipe would benefit from cooking in the conical tagine pot, but since I don’t own one, I choose to make it simply by bunging everything into a heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid and letting it all cook together slowly.
The aromatics from the baharat invade the entire pot, flavouring the potatoes, carrots, beans and the stock, slowly breaking down the dates and dried apricots into little blobs of soft sweet fudge. The resulting dish is a soul satisfying one pot that packs in tons of nourishment and flavour in every bite.
Olive oil 3 tbsp
Chicken 4 thigh pieces
Garlic 4 cloves
Onion 1/2 medium
Coriander 1/2 cup, chopped with their stems
Ginger 1-inch piece of ginger
Sea salt to taste
Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
Palm sugar 1 heaped tsp
Chicken stock 1 litre
Madras onions 1 small packet
Potatoes 1 medium cut into fairly large dices
Carrots 1 large seasonal red carrot, cut into large dices
Harissa 2 tbsp
(this can come out of a bottle, but for best results, make your own. My recipe for Harissa is to grind 200g fresh red chillies, 4 garlic cloves, 2 tbsp coriander powder, 1 1/2 tbsp cumin powder and 2 whole small Indian preserved lemons (Indian limbu ki achar), plus a good glug of olive oil. You can up the garlic in the recipe too, if you like.)
Tomatoes 2 cut into quarters or into large dices
Boiled beans 1/2 cup
Dried apricots 4
White pepper 1/4 tsp (optional)
Fish sauce 1 tbsp (optional)
Flaked almonds to garnish (optional)
Baharat Spice Mix
Fennel seeds 3 tsp
Star Anise 2
Green cardamom pods 10
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon 1 2.5″ inch stick
Sichuan peppercorns 1/2 tsp
Saffron 2 pinches
Dry roast the whole spices for the baharat spice mix on a hot tawa and when it is aromatic, take it off the heat and pound in a small mortar with two pinches saffron and set aside.
In a deep heavy bottomed pan, heat two out of three tablespoons of olive oil and start by frying your chicken thighs for 3-4 minutes till light brown on both sides. Take the chicken pieces out of the pan and set aside.
In a mortar, add the roughly chopped garlic, onion, ginger, coriander and salt and pound till well combined. Heat the remaining tablespoonful of olive oil in the same deep heavy bottomed pan and add the ground paste, followed by your baharat powder, turmeric powder and mix. Add to this the palm sugar and harissa and let the masalas cook for 3-4 minutes over medium flame.
Add the chicken stock to the pan followed by the bay leaves, madras onions, diced potatoes and carrots, quartered tomatoes, boiled beans and finally the dates and the dried apricots. Add the reserved meat and bring the whole stock pot to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat to a medium sim and reduce the gravy till all the meat and veggies are completely cooked through.
If you wish to thicken it further, smash a few pieces of the potato and add it back to the gravy as this thickens the gravy. Taste for salt and adjust with fish sauce and white pepper if necessary. Serve with slices of bread or pao.