Moroccan Spices: An Assortment of Flavors
I have never visited Morocco. In fact, I’ve only been to two countries outside the United States: Greece and the Bahamas. But I plan to increase my travel starting this year. While my goal is to visit two new states and one new country each year, I’m also cutting myself some slack for when “life’s surprises” pop up (like five friends’ weddings all within three months or other time and money-drainers that cause me to put my travel plans on the back burner). Regardless, I know that my frequent travel days are coming.
In the meantime though, I can explore various countries through their culinary arts. I’ve always been fascinated by global cuisine. Moroccan dishes are no exception.
Combining cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and paprika, this particular dish encompasses a breadth of flavors. And how could anyone come up with this combination? Seriously, I’ve used cinnamon in breakfast and dessert dishes—never a chicken recipe.
And let’s not forget our healthy dose of carbs. Sweet potatoes are a staple, but combine this with barley and you have a solid side dish that will keep you full for hours. (Seriously, you can probably make just the sweet potato-barley salad and call that lunch.)
Moroccan Cuisine Requires a Time Commitment
No, this won’t take you three hours, but it won’t be something you can wrap up in 30 minutes, either. But I promise the time it takes to make this is worth it. If it helps, do you prep work the night before. Dress the chicken and have it in a pan ready to go with plastic wrap over the top. Have your sweet potatoes chopped and ingredients measured out. All of this will cut down on your total prep and cooking time.
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1½ tablespoons cumin
- 1 tablespoon coriander
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 12 pitted dates
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 lemon, cut into quarters
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- ½ cup barley
- ¼ cup raisins
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Rinse and pat the chicken dry. Place it in a 13x9-inch baking pan.
- Combine the butter with 1 tablespoon each cumin, coriander and paprika and 1/2 teaspoon each cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Rub half of the butter mixture under the skin of the chicken and the rest on the outside of the chicken.
- Scatter the dates, onion lemon and garlic in the pan. Add 1 cup of water in the pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees until skin just begins to brown.
- Remove chicken from pan. Using tongs, flip the bird and roast for another 30 minutes. Then remove chicken from oven, flip the bird with tongs so it is breast-up and roast for an additional 20 minutes.
- While the chicken cooks, place chopped sweet potatoes on a sheet pan. In a small bowl, combine turmeric and salt, plus the remaining cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin and paprika. Pour olive oil over the sweet potatoes and sprinkle spice mixture. Flip sweet potatoes with a spatula.
- Bake sweet potatoes on the lower rack at 425 degrees while the chicken is cooking for 20 minutes
- Meanwhile, bring 1/2 cup of barley and 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Reduce to low heat and cook until barley is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
- When sweet potatoes are done, add to a medium sized bowl. Combine with barley, raisins and walnuts, mixing until combined.
- Divide sweet potato-barley salad among 4 to 6 plates. Cut chicken into serving pieces and serve with salad.
- Feel free to add other dried fruits to the chicken, such as dried apricots or dried cranberries. And same for the sweet-potato barley salad.
- Quinoa or brown rice can be substituted for the barley.
Mary Rebecca Says
When you can’t visit a country on your bucket list, try exploring the culture through the cuisine. Then when you actually do travel there, you’ll not only have a better understanding of the cuisine, but you will already have an idea of what you like and dislike.
OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on March 25, 2020:
I love the summary of this work, getting to know a country or tribe through her cuisine...Hope you will research into my tribe's (Yoruba's) cuisine too. Good work Mary