Sunday, 2 August 2015

ras el hanout chicken, sweet potato mash & an erratic week

I've been eating like a glutton the past couple weeks. I live, eat and dream food. Yes, I've gone totally overboard with the baking. Don't forget that I bake and test, bake and test and then when I’m happy with the result I post it here. Only fair right? The last thing I want is someone to say ‘hey Dina, your recipe is an epic fail give me back my time! So you could say I’m looking out for your best interests. And a few curves never hurt anyone in my books! I somehow still can't completely trust skinny cooks. Since starting this blog I've realised that I want to focus more on my food related pursuits and it makes me so happy seeing a recipe being shared or in a publication I love. I also end up eating the majority of my baked goods with unrestrained pleasure. No one can stop me! Isn't it great being a grown up and doing as you please?

Right, so a few things have been on my mind the past weeks. Firstly I'm either a bundle of nervous energy or melancholy deflation - it alternates. I haven't written fiction in a while so that's been on my mind. To get back to the writing desk and create stories, characters, plots. They're percolating but not quite ready, and though I know I should be writing I can't force myself. It never works that way and I end up deleting pages which always breaks my heart.  A journalist friend once said to me that it was easy being a bedroom writer- hiding behind closed doors, a laptop and books. But the world is much more interactive (as we know) and we are expected to have a presence online and in person via – dare I say it, networking. 

I grew up shy and reserved so I naturally shy away from public speaking and prefer to potter around than party. My primary school teachers used to write the same thing on my report card for years. ‘Intelligent but quiet’. To be honest I barely spoke. I once hid in the alcove behind my grandparents’ living room curtains to avoid guests and no one knew until the guests were leaving and they discovered me sitting on the floor with a book.  Yes I was a socially awkward child. Much as I'd love to exist in a Jane Austen novel, the truth is the world is even smaller that we think. Constant and instant connectivity keeps it going. I'm rambling I know, but every rambler requires sustenance. I'm trying to be a tad healthy this week so you shall have something savoury yet equally yummy. Don't say I don't think of you non-sweet addicted types!

The first time I laid eyes on this this exotic blend of Moroccan spices called ras el hanout, I just knew it would be fabulous. The spicy, sweet blend is so fragrant and includes, dried rosebuds, ash berries, grains of paradise (heavenly right?) amongst the usual cinnamon, cardamom and other spices commonly used for spice blends. It's kind of the North African garam masala and translates into 'head of the shop.' So I fell in love. I carried it to the checkout in my hand rather than put it down in the paltry shopping basket. It felt so precious. All I can say is it's magical and needs few accompanying extras. Use it simply on chicken, fish or meat - It has the power to transform a dish. I made a simple marinade and pan fried to seal before roasting in the oven. Minimal fuss and super tasty!

Ingredients (serves 2)
For the chicken
Half a chicken – skin off
2 level tsp ras el hanout spice mix
1/3 tsp salt
1/4 pepper
Juice of 1/2 lime juice
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 tsp crushed ginger
2 tbs olive oil (plus more for sealing in the pan)
1 small green chilli
2 tbs chopped red onion

For the mash
1 extra-large or two medium sweet potatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp cumin
1 clove garlic chopped
1 tbs chopped coriander
1 tbs butter
50 ml milk

Prepare the chicken by making long shallow cuts to the surface. This helps absorb the marinade. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish.

Make the ras el hanout marinade by mixing lime juice, garlic, ginger, onion and spices together. Rub into the chicken and marinate for at least 20 mins.

Preheat oven to gas mark 6/200c/180c fan.

Heat about two tbs oil in a pan on medium high heat and add chicken pieces, making sure to shake off excess onion pieces from the chicken and as this will burn. Fry on each side 1 1/2 - 2 mins until golden.

Return to the baking dish and coat in remaining marinade. Roast for 30 mins.

While the chicken is in the oven, prepare mash by peeling and cubing potatoes to large chunks and boil until soft. Mash potato in a bowl with milk and season with salt and pepper.

In a frying pan add butter, garlic and spices and lightly brown garlic. Turn the heat off and mix in mash and chopped coriander.

Garnish with lime and coriander and serve.

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