Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Living in the big smoke: Moroccan lentil chicken tagine


So, I’ve decided to start blogging again.  I know, it’s been a while.  More than a year in fact.  And it’s been a tumultuous year.  We moved to London, for my job.  I’m now working for Oxfam and absolutely loving it.  But chatting to the government is aided by being near them, and so we moved.Upped sticks, lock stock and barrel.  Sold our lovely home in Manchester and have now bought a new house in South London.  And it’s very lovely too, remarkably similar in fact.  Just a bit smaller and significantly more expensive!

But as we settle and start to feel comfortable again, making a home and finding comfort in homeliness has come back to us, and hence the blog.  I’ve never stopped cooking and perhaps my cooking has become simpler, quicker and more frugal as I find ways to make money and time stretch further in a city that demands so much and also is so absorbing.

I wonder if too, this blog may also become about eating and drinking in London – whether at home or out and about…we’ll see.

But I start with a very easy and cheap meal and pretty quick meal.  It’s delicious and something you can leave cooking whilst you do other things.  It’s a chicken lentil one pot tagine.  I quickly discovered the joys of Brixton market, including their very good and cheap halal butchers.  But if you’re without a market, then chicken legs are often much cheaper anyway, or get a whole chicken and cut it up.  I used boneless, skinless thighs as the recipe states, but you can use bone in and skin on ones, or thighs and drumsticks, just cook for a bit longer and use less oil when browning the chicken as there’s more fat in the skins which will release when you cook it.

The recipe is here

As always, I adapted it.  I used raisins instead of apricots, but you can leave them out all together if you like, and I added in olives and peppers.  But you can use whatever you have really.  I also cooked it in a tagine pot, but you can use a casserole dish or a heavy bottomed saucepan too.  The advantage of a tagine is it’ll cook it much quicker.

Moroccan lentil chicken tagineIMG_5584.JPG

Serves 2

  • 2 tsp olive oil (or any oil really)
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 2 tsp sweet or smoked paprika
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 pepper, sliced
  • 15 large olives
  • 50g red lentils (washed and drained)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 300ml chicken stock (you may need more if not using a tagine)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken
  • handful of sultanas or raisins
  • juice of half a lemon
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander or mint
  1. Mix together the dried spices with the oil and rub over the chicken
  2. Heat the tagine on the stove and add the chicken thighs, until browned on all sides.
  3. Remove the chicken and turn down the heat.
  4. Add another tsp of oil and fry the onions until softened
  5. Add the garlic, tomatoes, stock, cinnamon, pepper, lentils, lemon juice and raisins to the tagine
  6. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the lentils have absorbed the liquid.  You can also put in an oven if preferred at this point, but it’ll need longer to cook.
  7. You may need to add more stock if it becomes too dry, or leave the lid off towards the end if too liquidy
  8. 5 minutes before the end, add the olives.  And check the salt level.  Add some if needed.
  9. Just before serving, stir through the coriander or mint

And voila, easy peasy moroccan chicken that’s healthy, cheap and pretty quick to make.



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Moroccan spiced pork with apple salad

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I am sat at work twiddling my thumbs (well playing crazy eights actually!) because I’ve had a new system installed which has upset my computer. I was just thinking I should write a blog tonight when as I was flicking through pics I realised I hadn’t told you about the Moroccan pork chops.

So as I can’t actually work I thought I’d blog.

These are quick, delicious and easy peasy to make. Also quite low in calories and carb free if you’re not eating carbs at night. If you are eating carbs i served with crushed potatoes (new potatoes very badly mashed). You may even find them kiddy friendly. I’m not overly keen on sweet salads but I used a tart apple and really enjoyed it.

Comes from bbc good food (of course) but I can’t be bothered to find the link on my phone.

Moroccan spiced pork
Serves 2

2 pork chops
3 tbsp ras el hanout spice mix
1 tsp chilli powder (leave out if you don’t want heat)
4 tbsp olive oil

For the salad:
1 apple thinly sliced
2 celery sticks sliced on diagonal
1/2 red onion very thinly sliced
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 shallot finely chopped
1 garlic clove minced
Small handful of coriander and mint leaves finely chopped
Salt & pepper

1. Mix the spice mix and chilli powder with the olive oil and smear on the pork. Leave to marinade for 20 mins or longer
2. Preheat the grill on high
3. Meanwhile make the salad by putting the apple, red onion and celery in a bowl and mixing well.
4. Make the dressing by whisking together the mustard, vinegar, shallot, garlic, salt & pepper and herbs. Pour over the salad and toss to mix.
5. Grill the pork chops for about 5-10 minutes each side or until cooked through, basting with the marinade.
6. Serve with the salad in the middle of the plate topped with the pork
7. Enjoy!

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January pick me up: Lamb chops with pomegranate salsa

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This is a wonderful recipe, full of flavours and colours and very light on the calories and fat. It’s so low in calories you could have it for lunch if you wanted. But it also makes a great low calorie dinner. You can’t help but feel fantastic eating this it entices your senses and lamb is such a tasty meat too.

These chops actually came from a local (ish) farm, provided by a lovely lady who brings meat and eggs to our offices from her farm. And you can taste the difference in the meat. I’ve never noticed the difference with organic meat before – but fresh from her farm where they’ve obviously had a wonderful life and slaughtered by a local abattoir They really taste delicious and are perfect for eating simply. If you get the opportunity to try organic meat like this – then definitely take it – you won’t regret it.

According to my recipe calculator, there are 382 calories in it – however, I’m not sure that’s the case as I had to approximate the weight of the chops and that also included the bone. The original recipe says 280 calories and I didn’t use the feta in it, but I did add tomatoes and pomegranate. Also – I used balsamic vinegar and honey instead of pomegranate molasses so these will all alter it – but I’d say that it’s unlikely to be more than 300 calories.

Either way – very light, very healthy, very colourful and very tasty. Also, very quick and very easy to make! Perfect for a midweek meal.

If you wanted to pad it out a bit then you could serve with couscous as well – I’d stir that into the salad and make it a couscous salad.

The original recipe is here but I adapted it – as mentioned before.

Lamb chops with pomegranate salsa

Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or use 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1tbsp honey – and reduce to a syrup)
  • 4 lamb chops
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cucumber, finely chopped
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds removed (you can do this by cutting in half and immersing in tap water. Allow to soften for a few minutes, then peel off the peel under the water. As you do, the seeds will sink to the bottom and the pith will rise to the surface. Skim off the pith and then drain the seeds from the water)
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander or mint
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
  • salt & pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Brush the chops with the2 tbsp of the molasses or balsamic reduction and season with salt & pepper.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan and brown the chops on either side in the pan. Then transfer to a baking dish or tray and bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
  4. Meanwhile, combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl.
  5. Whisk together the remaining molasses or balsamic reduction with the tomato puree and some salt & pepper. Add a little more balsamic vinegar if the reduction has become too thick. Pour over the salad and mix well to combine.
  6. When the chops are cooked, pile the salad into the middle of a plate and top with the chops.
  7. Serve immediately and enjoy the wonderful colours and flavours 🙂
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Tagines the Moroccan way

We went on holiday to Morocco in May.  I always judge the success of a holiday on the food and I have to say that this was way up there on the gastronomic happiness scale.  I was so excited to go because of all the images you have of Morocco – the colourful and exotic and of course the food.  When you’ve traveled quite as much as I have it’s hard to experience the exotic still but Morocco didn’t disappoint.

My favourite meal there was not the one you’d expect but then I think finding something wonderful in the unexpected is just the best thing you can experience.  We were shopping in the souks in Marrakech.  We were exhausted and bamboozled by all the bartering and shopping (we bought this gorgeous antique silver teapot – I just love it – use it to make normal tea all the time!).  We came across these stalls selling meat cooked on grills. Local men were sat around eating and the guy that ran the stall was so welcoming.  He ushered us in, found us stools (two white or probably pink at that point! foreigners, and one a woman! in the middle of all these men in traditional dress – what they thought I’ve no idea!) and some coke.  We ordered some lamb cutlets.  They went on the grill fresh, and came to us with Moroccan salad and bread.  They were the best I’ve ever had!  So delicately but beautifully spiced, so tender, perfectly cooked.  The salad was incredible too.  After that we promptly went to a spice shop where we bought spices and argan oil (which has to be the best oil ever!).

We stayed in Riads (traditional Moroccan guesthouses), which has to be the best way to experience Morocco.  The Riad manager at our Riad in Essaouira insisted on cooking for us one evening (and no they didn’t charge us, we just paid for the fish that went in the dish).  We did the whole experience together from going to the market for the ingredients, to cooking it, and eating it.  One of my favourite memories of Morocco.  And he taught me how to make Tagine.

The day after I promptly went back to the market and bought myself a tagine dish.  It’s not the decorative type that you get in the tourist shops.  This was one I bought in the food market from a stall that other ladies got their dishes from.  It’s not pretty but it’s very simple and elegant.  But the main thing is, it’s works, retains the fluid and can be put in direct flame.  The ceramic is fired and unglazed.

Tagines in Morocco are different from Tagines outside of Morocco.  Everywhere else they tend to be quite liquidy with a lot of gravy and only a bit of meat and vege.  And they’re served with couscous.  And baked in the oven.  Not so in Morocco.  In Morocco they are a dish in and of themselves and a cous cous dish is entirely different.  Everywhere we ate Tagines in Morocco they were the same in how they were produced and presented (or rather in the absence of couscous) so I know this wasn’t an unusual way to prepare and eat Tagines.  And they are steamed on the top of the fire or hob.

Tagines are extremely easy to make and don’t take a lot of time.  They aren’t dissimilar from casseroles or stews.  But the main difference is they steam in their own juices and aren’t cooked with much water at all.  They are so tasty, low in fat and calories and are very good for you.  If you use lentils instead of meat you can even make a vegan version.

You can use any meat, on or off the bone, although the bone does make it juicier.  Obviously in Morocco they are Muslim so they don’t eat pork, but I’m sure it would work.

You can buy preserved lemons in jars in the world food section of most large supermarkets.  They aren’t a patch on the gorgeous ones they have in Morocco, but we can’t have everything!  Ravinder Bhogal actually explains how to make them in Cook in Boots and I should try it sometime – I’ve just not got round to it.  However, if you’re really stuck, just use a fresh lemon, quartered.  It’s not the same but it does.

I use my tagine dish, of course, but you don’t have to.  You can use a casserole or other high sided heavy bottomed dish that can be put in direct heat (or use a metal plate to put unsuitable dishes on the hob). A large saucepan with a lid may do at a pinch.

The recipe serves 4 but in the pictures I just made it for 2 so the pyramid of food isn’t quite as impressive.

Moroccan chicken Tagine

2 tbsp olive oil (I actually used chilli oil this time)

2 onions chopped

3 garlic cloves finely chopped

1inch root ginger peeled and grated

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp ground coriander

1tsp moroccan spice mix (I bought this in Morocco but you can find it in the spice section in supermarkets)

1tsp chilli powder

1/2 turmeric

a good pinch of saffron dissolved in 1tbsp warm water


4 chicken legs, skinned and cut into drumsticks and thighs

400g potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin rounds

2 large carrots peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal

2 peppers of different colours, de-seeded and cut into thin strips

4 tomatoes finely chopped

10-15 olives (your choice)

1 preserved lemon (or normal lemon if you can’t get preserved lemons) finely chopped

1 tbsp chopped fresh mint or coriander (or both)

  1. heat the oil in bottom of your pot, and fry the onions until browned.  Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a further couple of minutes.  Then add all the spices (not the saffron just yet) and fry until they become fragrant.
  2. Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides.  Make sure they get well covered in the spice mix.  You may need to do this in batches.
  3. When the chicken is browned, arrange it all on the bottom of the pan, as flat as possible.  Try to get the spices and onion on the top of the chicken, not just underneath.  Pour over the saffron.
  4. Take your potato slices and arrange vertically around the bottom of the dish, over the chicken.  Keep piling up as you start to make a pyramid.
  5. Next add the carrots.  Go over the potatoes to make the pyramid wider and higher.
  6. Hook the pepper slices from the top to the bottom over the potatoes and carrots.  Place the olives in any nook and cranny.
  7. Sprinkle over the preserved lemons.  Or if using normal lemons, squeeze two of the quarters over the pyramid and then wedge into the pyramid along with the remaining quarters.
  8. Put the chopped tomatoes at the top of the pyramid to make a volcano and sprinkle over the chopped herbs.
  9. Put the lid on and steam on a low-medium heat until it’s cooked through.  Do not worry, you don’t need to add water.  This will take about 20minutes.  It’s easy to tell when this is because the potatos will be firm but cooked.
  10. If during the cooking process it looks like a lot of water is forming, spoon it off.  You don’t need to worry if there’s a little bit but if it starts to swim or bubble up the sides then spoon a bit off.
  11. If using a tagine pot or a decorative dish – serve the Moroccan way, place the dish in the centre of the table and eat directly from it with a fork and some flat bread (naan, chappatis, tortillas or pittas will all work well – just warm through first).
  12. If your dish is less pretty or a table isn’t available, spoon into dishes ensuring each person has a drumstick and thigh each.  Serve with flatbread.

Just reading this again, makes me want a tagine.  They are so delicious.  And I only made it last night!  Somehow, even though the cooking time isn’t long, the way it cooks the meat just falls off the bone and it’s so tender.  Don’t be scared by the spices or lemons – it’s not difficult.  They can all be found in a supermarket.  And if you can’t find it – just improvise.  If you can’t find spice mix, just add a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg instead.  If you can’t find or afford saffron, add more turmeric.  It won’t have quite the same flavour but it will be good enough and still taste great.  If you don’t have a tagine pot, use a casserole pot or large saucepan.  You may not get quite the same pyramid shape but it’ll still taste good.

If you want to turn this into a three course dinner party meal, I suggest a Moroccan salad for starters, or baked aubergine slices in tomatoes.  And creme caramel or stewed fresh figs  with mascarpone for dessert.


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