I have for sometime now been quite fascinated with middle-eastern food, especially the use of spices and herbs. In my head, herbs and spices are synonymous with magical herbs, the sort that grow in enchanted forests, have healing powers, have exotic fragrance and often bloom only once every full moon night or once every hundred years. This mental image of mine has been reinforced by mythical tales and alternative medicine both of which attribute mystical properties to spices and herbs.
I think that, the fact that they are mostly available in dried, powdered, or preserved form and few of us have actually seen them in their raw natural state gives them an aura of elusiveness. Did you know our everyday staple seasoning pepper grew on a vine, like miniature grape clusters? Or that nutmeg is the seed of a fruit that looks just like an apricot? I learnt about them only a few years back, when I visited my in-laws’ family, these spices grow in their backyard. I also find that I am quite willing usually, to consider herbal remedies especially teas for sore throats and even lactating purposes. An annoying trait of mine, according to my husband is that I can never pass by a tea store without tasting their free sample herbal teas, but they have such fancy names! Chamomile and cinnamon tea, hibiscus tea with lemongrass or rose petal tea with mint leaves.
This weekend, as I added ripe mangoes to my shopping cart, I decided to try something interesting rather than serve and eat diced fruit which is what we usually do. Since the word ‘moroccan cuisine’ has been hanging in my head for quite a while now, I made up this recipe after looking up the spices, herbs, dry fruit and nuts that are characteristic of Moroccan cuisine from Wikipedia.
Disclaimer: I do not vouch for the authenticity of this dish.
2 ripe mangoes peeled, pitted and diced
2 lbs skinless boneless chicken breast cut into cubes
1 cup raw organic quinoa
3 tbsp Olive oil
Spice rub for chicken: 1 tsp Paprika + tsp Cumin + 1 tsp Coriander + 1 tsp Cinnamon + 1 tsp Pepper + 1 tsp Turmeric + 1 tsp ground Ginger and salt to taste
A pinch of Saffron
1 tbsp chopped Parsley
1 diced Zucchini
1 chopped Red bell pepper
1 chopped Red onion
1/2 cup Chopped Cilantro
2 tbsp Raisins
1/4 cup Toasted Almonds
1 freshly squeezed lemon
A dash of red pepper powder (optional)
1 cup Greek yogurt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To the chicken, add 1 tbsp olive oil and all the spices listed under spice rub, then add the mango pieces and bake for about 20-25 minutes ( in a baking tray or casserole).
Sprinkle with cilantro and keep aside.
In a saucepan, add 2 tbsp olive oil followed by onions, bell pepper and zucchini. Add a pinch of saffron.
Sauté for a few minutes before adding rinsed quinoa and 2 cups of water and salt. Quinoa takes about 15 minutes to cook.
Once it’s done, seeds start to look transparent.
Add parsley, 2 tbsp lemon juice, pepper and raisins, mix and cover with a heavy lid and let stand for a few minutes.
For yogurt sauce, add to yogurt, 2 tbsp lemon juice, salt and pepper and freshly chopped mint leaves ( I didn’t have any so I added parsley) and a dash of red pepper powder.
Garnish the quinoa pilaf with toasted almonds right before serving ( keeps them from becoming soft), and serve with mango chicken and yogurt sauce.