Chicken Tagine with Chickpeas, Apricots and Almonds

That I am absolutely fascinated with Morocco will probably be the biggest understatement of the decade. I am mesmerised by it, I am enamoured by it — the culture, the food, the locales and of course the spice markets! I have been planning to go to Morocco for the longest time possible, but then again, I plan to go to every second place on the planet, and that is somehow not humanly or financially feasible (and I'm not even considering office leaves!) So till the time I manage to go to Morocco, let me quench my thirst for the place with this simple tagine.
Tagine always reminds me of that memorable dinner my friend T and I had at this place called Zo in Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi. I had ordered a Pepperoni Pizza and she settled for a Lamb Tagine (she had been tagine-craving for the preceding two odd months and that was precisely what drove us to Zo over Yeti, our all-time favourite at HKV.) But to her utter disappointment, the tagine arrived not in the traditional conical tagine pot but in a normal serving bowl. So devastated she was that she promised to not order a tagine ever at a restaurant. So the other day when I made this faux tagine (yes, mine too hasn't been made in a tagine pot, because obviously I don't own one, duh!) and sent her a picture of it, she made me promise that I have to make it for her when she comes down to Calcutta for a holiday at the end of this month. And yes, not in a tagine pot! Well, her wish is my command, so I guess there's no escaping it!
Recipe inspired by and loosely adapted from The Kichn
Serves: 4

Chicken, with bones: 500 gm
Onion, diced: 1
Carrot, peeled and diced: 1
Garlic, chopped finely: 1 tbsp
Ginger, minced: 1 tsp
Coriander powder: 1 tsp
Cumin powder: 1 tsp
Cinnamon powder: 1 tsp
Chicken stock: 1 cup
Dried apricots: 1/2 cup
Almonds, roughly chopped: 4-5 tbsp
Chickpeas, boiled in salt water and strained: 1 cup (Reserve the chickpea stock)
Olive oil: 2 tbsp
Salt: to taste
Pepper: to taste
Sumac: 1 tsp (optional)

Method:

1. Marinade the chicken pieces with some salt and pepper and set aside for 20-30 minutes.

2. After that, in a deep-bottomed non-stick vessel heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Layer the chicken pieces on the base of the pan, taking care that they do not overlap. Do this in batches if necessary. Cook one side for 7-8 minutes, flip and cook the other side for 5 min or till golden. Remove from pan and set aside.

3. Add another tbsp of oil to the pan and add the onions, carrots, ginger and garlic. Sauté till the onions turn translucent. Keep the heat to medium to prevent scalding. Now add the powdered spices one by one and cook until it gives out an aroma, roughly for a couple of minutes.

4. Now add the apricots, almonds and chickpeas and mix well with the spices. Add the chicken and stored chickpea stock and mix well. Gently add the chicken pieces back to the pan.

5. Now bring the gravy to a boil, then turn down the heat. Cover the pan and cook for 30-40 minutes.

6. Transfer the chicken to a plate and gently ladle the gravy along with the apricots, almonds and chickpeas on it. You can sprinkle some chopped almonds and coriander on the chicken for garnish. I sprinkled some sumac.

7. Serve hot with couscous. Alternatively, you can prepare a bed of couscous, arrange the pieces of chicken on it in a layer and pour over the gravy. This is probably as close as I could get to making a tagine without the real deal.
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