Tunisian Apricot Harissa Chicken

A sunshine-sweet chicken dinner with a touch of the desert heat.

As much as I love Moroccan food, I can't help but feel that nearby Tunisian, as small and unannouncing as it is, has a lot of underrated cuisine that needs to speak out to the world. You tend to find a lot of chilli and heat, yet everything is notably sweet - like it's been kissed by the sun. And there's a lot of sun to be kissed by in Tunisia.

This recipe is Tunisian-ified through one particular ingredient, the jewel in Tunisia's crown: harissa paste. A searing hot, hauntingly-pungent chilli paste. It's made from roasted chilli peppers, garlic, caraway and coriander seed. Very musky flavours!

Many people mistakenly think harissa is a Moroccan thing, and though it is becoming more prominent in Moroccan dishes, it's the pride and joy of Tunisia. Though it sounds very exotic and niche, harissa paste is pretty accessible nowadays. You can find it in every major supermarket. Even when I lived in the wilderness of rural Wales, the local supermarket supplied the stuff. You'll most likely find it in the world foods aisle or the sauces & dips aisle.

Onto the recipe - it's delicious and what's more it's SO easy! Like, deceptively easy. You fry some chicken, which is stewed right through on a low heat until it's incredibly tender. What's more, that succulent chicken is swathed in a sweet and spicy sauce. The heat comes from the aforementioned harissa paste, but the sweetness is lent from a very familiar ingredient: apricot jam! So easy to buy, and incredibly cheap at that. No need to buy fresh apricots, or even dried ones! Just two sloppy tablespoons of golden apricot jam brings tang and a caressing sweetness. It's such a hack, which makes this recipe an overall simple yet invigorating after-work supper for two.

What You'll Need:
+ 8 plump, boneless/skinless Chicken Thighs +
+ 2 tablespoons of Apricot Jam +
+ 2 teaspoons of Harissa Paste +
+ 1/2 teaspoon of ground Black Pepper +
+ 1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt +
+ 1/4 teaspoon (Pinch) of Cinnamon +
+ 1 tablespoon of Lemon Juice +
+ Handful of Flaked Almonds +
+ Enough cous cous, rice or quinoa as you wish! +

1. Firstly, let's get our chicken on the go!

Heat up a large and accommodating pan on medium/high heat. I used a wok. Add a tablespoon or so of oil - vegetable, sunflower, anything flavourless - and heat until it's runny.

Add your chicken thighs to the pan along with 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Fry them about 5 minutes per side until fairly tanned on the outside. Don't panic too much about it being totally cooked right through, it will be definitely be cooked right through with the sauce later if not.

2. Once the chicken is sealed, turn the heat down and chop your peppers into little strips. As thick as you can handle, there's no strict criteria. If you want beasty, hefty chunks, go with that. Be true to who you are.

Tip your chopped peppers into your chicken and stir-fry everything for about a minute until coated in the oils.

3. Pour in your 250ml of chicken stock, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, pinch of cinnamon, your 2 teaspoons of harissa paste and 2 glooping tablespoons of apricot jam.

The chicken stock adds a savoury base, while harissa adds spice and heat, and the apricot jam adds sweetness and stickiness. It's a marvellous superhero trio I reckon!

4. Bring your panful of fragrant chicken up to the boil, and then turn the heat right down low to simmer. Leave the pan like this for about 30 minutes until it thickens into a sticky, thin gravy.

5. Once the gravy is thickened and coats the back of a spoon well, it's good to serve. The chicken will definitely be cooked, but if you're OCD about this, there's no harm in cutting into a leg and checking just to put your mind at rest.

6. Serve this hot with some mildly-spiced cous cous, some basmati rice or even some quinoa. You have a world of grains to your disposal - I'm sure all of them could work with this.

Some extra class, add a sprinkling of flaked almonds for crunch!

I'll tell you: this tastes so much better as a packed lunch the next day!

I hope you enjoy this easy shortcut recipe! Let me know what you think.


Anthony :)



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