3 baby chicken cooked following Moroccan steamed and roasted chicken recipe with stuffed herbs. Chicken is served surrounded with steamed and seasoned new potatoes, carrots and green beans

Moroccan stuffed chicken with spinach – roasted or steamed option

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Steamed or roasted chicken recipes are one of the healthiest meal options in Moroccan cooking. You can combine both cooking methods by steaming the birds ahead of time then roast them for colour and texture in the last minutes or you can marinate them and roast them on time just before lunch or dinner. Then you can also serve leftovers in many ways (sandwich, salad…)

Steaming chicken or meat to make Moroccan M’bakhkhars keeps them moist and prevent them from drying. If you try out this method, I’m sure you will love it.

Follow the same recipe to make the roasted version and have the birds in the oven without going through the steaming method although sometimes we combine them both as explained many times in this post, in which case roasting is just to heat the birds and give them some colour and extra texture just before serving.

When we have family gathering, this recipe is one of the “must serve” for a lighter option in case anyone is on diet.

Try to get rid of any fat between the skin and the meat (yep, those white spots, you will never find them in a chicken cooked Moroccan style). Be careful not to tear up the skin..

Before you marinate the chicken, you want to decide which colour you are going for. You could marinate the chicken with a red effect by adding more paprika to the chermoula (the mix of herbs and spices used) or with a yellow effect by adding turmeric which also will call for ginger. Both are a matter of choice.

After the chicken is cooked through and steamed properly, or you could either semi-roast it or serve it as it is. We like to semi-roast it for a nice golden colour just before serving.

Serving stuffed chicken with herbs with pickles all around

The liver, heart, gizzard are also added to the stuffing. They also get sauteed separately with a bit of seasoning before adding them to the rest. In Europe, I have to buy them separately and I tend to forget them..So I’m omitting them in the recipe considering how hard it is to get them here

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Ingredients

Serves 10-12
Prep: 20 min - Cooking: 1 h
  • 3 medium-size chickens, prepared and left in brine for a few hours (water, salt, vinegar)

Marinade (chermoula), use pestle and mortar or a blender

  • 1 cup of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of harissa
  • 3 tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • 2 tbps of olive oil
  • 3 tbsps of lemon juice

Stuffing: herbs and chermoula (depending on the cavities, extra can be served as a cold salad)

  • 1.5 – 2 kgs of spinach (frozen will do), you can mix with chard, purslane, mallow leaves..
  • 500 g of green or purple olives, chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped herbs (coriander and parsley)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp of ground cumin
  • 1-2 tbsp of harissa
  • 2 tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 1-2 preserved lemon, chopped
  • 5 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

Preparation

Prepare the chickens

First of all, clean the chickens thoroughly and dip it in a brine for at least 3 hours (water, vinegar, salt and lemon).

Chicken left in brine which helps cleaning it and eases the process of pulling the inner gooey fat

Moroccan way of cleaning the chicken: placing it in a brine helps pulling the unwanted inner fat bits

Cooking the chickens

Steam the chicken in the top part of the couscoussier over hot boiling water. Again you can chop in some onions for flavour. Cover the chickens to allow proper and even cooking. The birds should be ready after 45 to 60 min depending on the size.

Should you want to go for a full roast or partial roast, make sure to massage the birds with a bit of olive oil or butter (or smen) before placing them in a hot oven (200 degrees C). Roast all sides (rotate the bird every 15 min) leaving the breast at the end. Make sure it’s all cooked through.

Accompanying vegetables

Steam the vegetables (whole new potatoes, sliced carrots, sliced turnips, sliced courgettes, green beans..) until cooked. Before serving, pass then in a pan with butter, cumin and salt for a couple of minutes. You could add chopped coriander or/and parsley.

Optionally, you could roast the potatoes.

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Chicken tights served with orange wedges, orange sauce and flaky almonds

Moroccan chicken tagine with orange wedges

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Moroccan Cooking varies depending where we’re looking, whether it’s the city, the mountain, the desert, the countryside or the sea side.

Although we may have some common dishes and some others which have recently become common across the countries as well as people from all walks of life, we still “discover” each other through our different types of dishes.

 

Chicken tights served with orange wedges, orange sauce and flaky almonds

Moroccan chicken tagine with orange. Credit @Nada Kiffa

Tagine inspiration

I grew up enjoying Fassi cuisine (Fes/Fez) and some of the “Casablancaise” specialties since I was born and raised in Casablanca. I never heard of oranges in a tagines until I opened “La Cuisine Marocaine de mère en fille” by Touria Agourram.
What an amazing collection of recipes and stories! It has become one of my favourite Moroccan cookbooks although.
The book hasn’t got a single picture but rather some drawings scattered here and there. However, it’s a collection of traditional practices and recipes by cities or regions. In a nutshell, exactly what I like!

Cooking on the light side

Today’s recipe has oranges as topping, which is the only new thing to me, the bird is cooked as a regular Mqalli of chicken meant to go with sweet topping or garnishing.
I decided to sweeten the oranges with good honey although the recipe calls for only a bit of sugar to do the job. The oranges I used today were naturally sweet so it didn’t really need much.

Ideally, a beldi chicken, quail or a gamy bird should be used for this tagine. For optimal taste, cook it in a tagine over charcoal or wood. But for today, I’ve just used baby chicken and cooked the tagine over a cooker..

 

Ingredients
Serves 2
Prep: 10 min – cooking: 45 – 90 min (depending on the type of bird and the use of a pot vs tagine)
For the mqalli of chicken
  • 1 baby chicken (you may use a whole baby chicken or quail)
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 handful of coriander to make a small bouquet 
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2/3 tsp of turmeric
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp of ground white pepper
  • A good pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp of sea salt or salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp of smen (Moroccan cured aged clarified butter), optional
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp of good honey
 
For the orange topping
  • 2 sweet oranges, cut in wedges, discard the white membrane
  • 2/3 tsp of cinnamon
  • 2 tbsps of honey ( or sugar)
  • 20 g of butter
  • 1 tsp of orange blossom water
Garnishing
  • Toasted almonds or sesame seeds
 
Preparation
Mqalli of chicken 
 
Mix half of the spices with smen  (Moroccan aged butter) or/and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Massage the chicken pieces with it. Set aside while you chop the onions.
 
Place a dutch oven/deep saucepan/tagine on medium heat. Add about 4 tablespoons of water, the chopped onions, the chicken, spices and coriander. Stir it a couple of times over the heat so the spices spread evenly and coat the chicken. 
 
Once the liquid seem to have evaporated, add the oil and pour enough water (only from the side and not on top of the chicken) to cover the bird (only 1/3 of the quantity if you are cooking in a tagine) and cover. Let simmer until chicken has cooked and the liquid has reduced.  Add the honey and check the seasoning.
 
If you are using a tagine for this recipe, you should prepare the orange topping once you see that the tagine is almost ready.
 
If you are cooking this recipe in a saucepan or a dutch oven, I suggest you add an extra step: Fish out the chicken and glaze it with a tiny bit of oil. Place it under a grill/broiler for 20 min at 200 degrees C. Meanwhile, allow the sauce in the pan to reduce and thicken.  Get on with the orange topping.
 
Orange topping
 
Heat butter, honey and cinnamon in a frying pan. add the orange wedges. Let them render some liquid and delicately flip them or they’ll break. This process will take about 3 to 4 minutes on high flame/heat.
 
Serving the chicken with oranges
 
Serve the sauce first, add the chicken pieces and top with the orange wedges. 
 
I made a reduction of orange juice by adding what I collected when cutting the orange and poured it into the pan used to make the orange topping, I waited for the water to evaporate and added it on top of the …topping.
 
I also toasted some flaked almonds and caramelised some, for extra texture! Delicious!
 
Serve warm with bread or without..

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Moroccan rfissa with chicken and lentils

Moroccan Rfissa with Rezzat El Qadi

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R’fissa or Rfissa is a concept of dish found across the Arab world. The dish generally comes in the form of a built dish where the base is shredded pancake or bread that is generously soaked with a slow-cooked broth and topped with meat (chicken, meat….). However, each country has their own recipe(s).

Moroccan rfissa with chicken and lentils

Moroccan rfissa with Razzat el Qadi. chicken and lentils. Credit @Nada Kiffa

In its meaty and spiced up form, this regional specialty is often prepared after a woman gives birth as it is believed to help the mother regain her strength and even help the breast milk flow. When you know that it needs a grass-fed farm hen, lentils and a mix of warm herbs and spices called msakhen (see notes) then you can relate.

Rfissa is comfort food

Rfissa is also a family dish which is the essence of comfort food. It is also a proper winter dish in its full version (with Msakhen mix, with pulses such as dried fava beans and lentils..)

Rfissa is not to be confused with Algerian or Tunisian Rfiss which is more of a sweet preparation.

Depending on the regions, Moroccan Rfissa can be prepared with a special harcha (Rfissa ziyatiya), stale bread (Rfissa el ‘Amya), Msemmen or Trid or Rezzat el Qadi which is a regional pancake specialty consisting of a threaded M’semmen.

As I write quite often about the Fassi Cuisine (from Fez), Rfissa is definitely not something you should look for in Fez. My mother learned to make it from her colleagues and I had it a few times at my friends houses.

This is how It has become an important dish in our family. Because let’s be honest about it, the best Rfissa has to come from the Chaouia region (most of its people end up in Casablanca) is just as much as one of the best couscous comes from Abda region and the best pigeon bastilla  pr Moroccan almond sweets come from Fez.

I have previously posted a Rfissa recipe with Msemmen base, it’s almost the same thing as today’s recipe but written in French. So for those who are comfortable with the language, please head there.

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Ingredients
Serves 4 – 6
Prep: 10 min (not incl. the time for rezzat el qadi) – Cooking: 1 hour

  • 800 g to 1 kg of Rezzat el qadi, replace with shredded 1-layered Msemmen

For the chicken 

  • 1 chicken of 1.2 to 1.5 kg, cleaned the Moroccan way (check this post) and divided into 4 to 6 pieces
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp of ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of Ras el hanout
  • 1 tsp of Msakhen (optional, see notes)
  • 1 tsp of smen (cured preserved clarified butter)

For the broth

  • 3 medium-size onions, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of mace
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp of ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of Ras el hanout
  • 1 tsp of smen (cured preserved clarified butter)
  • A good pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tbsp of fenugreek seeds, pre-soaked for 3 hours in hot water (optional, see notes)
  • 3 tbsps of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup brown lentils, pre-soaked (not from a tin)

 

Moroccan rfissa with chicken and lentils

Family gathering around Moroccan rfissa with chicken and lentils. Credit @Nada Kiffa

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Preparation

Mix half of the spices along with smen and a tablespoon of water. Massage the chicken in every possible bit of it especially the cavity. Cover and place it back in the fridge for 2 hours, preferably overnight.

In a deep cooking pot, place 3 tablespoons of water, onions, spices and smen. Stir.
Place over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the chicken, the bouquet of herb and the oil. Stir again.
Pour about 1.5 l of hot water but not directly on the chicken (you don’t want to wash down the spices). Do it rather from the sides.

Cover and let simmer for 40 minutes until the chicken is tender. You need to have enough broth left to cook the lentils and also to soak Rf’issa base later.

Reserve about 2 to 3 cups of broth. If you don’t have enough, add water to the chicken broth after you fish out the chicken in a separate dish and cover it.

Stir the drained pre-soaked lentils in the reserved broth and cook them along with fenugreek until soft.

Assembling and presenting Rfissa

While the rezzat el qadi is steaming, heat the pot with broth and chicken as well as the lentils.

Fluff up the Rezzat el qadi with your hands. Place it on the top side of a couscoussier or rice steamer fitted with a steamer tray. Do not cover.

Put boiling water and the bottom and wait for the first steam to come through.

Steaming Rezzat el Qadi for Moroccan rfissa

Steaming Rezzat el Qadi for Moroccan rfissa / Credit @Nada Kiffa

Spread the rezzat el qadi threads in a serving dish.

Next, place the chicken in the middle, generously drizzle the broth and onions. Delicately spread around evenly to soak the rezza base. You don’t want to turn it to a pool either.

Spread the lentils on top.

Serve hot, along with bowls of extra broth on the sides for those who want more of it.


Notes

Msakhen vs Ras el Hanout

While Ras el Hanout is a specific mix of spices, Msakhen are about spices and herbs as well and the word derives from “heating up” or “warming up”. Just like Ras el Hanout (translated as top of the shop), there is no specific recipe as they depend on who mixed them.

Some Msakhen have more herbs in them while others have more seeds and spices in them.

While Ras el Hanout is roughly used across Morocco (with differences in the mix), Msakhen are used in a few regions only and mostly in winter dishes (special soups, couscous, Rfissa).

Msakhen can be a mix of common and wild herbs I’m not able to translate here, which is why, it’s advisable that a pregnant woman does not add them to the food, especially when the mix is still fresh and new. They’re meant to be very “warm” and can cause a miscarriage. That’s at least what those who prepare them have always believed in.

The version of Msakhen I’ll post in this recipe is only one example from my spice shop in Casablanca. This version has rather some common spices with Ras el Hanout but it gets interesting in the end.

If you are in Morocco and trying to buy Msakhen, your best bet is to look for them in Casablanca at the spice shops located in traditional markets. It’s not something you come buy at supermarket or across the cities for that matter.

So here is the list of Msakhen ingredients used by my spice shop (some names of seeds are missing though but it’s already complicated as it is): Galangal, oregano, penny-royal, rosemary, amber, saffron, cinnamon, turmeric, mace, cardamom, long pepper, Sedge, maniguette, allspice, nutmeg, aniseed, cumin seeds, white pepper, castor. coriander seed, nigella seeds, fenugreek, fennel seed, cresson alénois (in French), chamomile, clove, star anise, caraway, lavender, thyme, applemint, onion seeds, carrot seeds and a few other seeds and herbs I’m personally not familiar with.

Fenugreek

This is not a common spice in Moroccan cooking and not everyone like it. Although we use it a lot in traditional medicine, it’s hardly used in the dishes and some regions don’t even get to it.

Some versions of Rfissa such as as the one posted here call for fenugreek seeds. Moroccan women found a solution to please everyone: they cook the seeds in a bit of broth and serve it in a bowl on the side of the Rfissa dish. If someone is into it, they can just spoon some of that broth and add it to their serving and everyone is happy!

Although I’m not big fan of fenugreek, I find that adding a pinch of it to the main pot is really not that bad!

The different faces of Moroccan Rfissa

Like mentioned earlier, there are different types of Rfissa in Morocco.

  1. Rfissa with Msemmen: Mostly topped with chicken and pulses (fava beans, chickpeas, lentils). You can also make a vegetarian Rfissa by omitting the chicken. Not common but doable.
  2. Rfissa with Rezzat el qadi: rather a version from the western part of Morocco, namely Sidi Hejjaj and its region. Women go through the trouble of manually preparing these threaded pancakes and serve this dish for important family ceremonies and religious feasts. The recipe is almost the same as the Rfissa with Msemmen.
  3. Rfissa el ‘Amia (blind Rfissa): The base is stale bread in small pieces and steamed. The broth can also have pulses and practically the same spices as the one above. However, Dried cured meat (used to make khlii) or other sorts of meat can be used. It’s a 100% winter dish and it could come very garlicky. It’s belly-warming and ideal for a cold.
  4. Rfissa Zeyadiya from Benslimane: The base is a thin harcha which is broken to small bits and steamed. The broth is almost the same apart from the addition of cinnamon stick and the use of game. Lentils are also called for here. There is a version which is rather presented differently in Taliouine, the capital of Moroccan saffron, it’s called Taachat and it comes with meat instead of hens. It also calls for a generous amount of smen and saffron.
  5. Vegetarian and fuss-free Rfissa from Hyayna:  In the cities near Hyayna, it’s also called “Khoubza we lebza“.

Now the key to this dish is the farm butter, prepared and rolled by hands in our countryside. I had the chance to taste this harcha-based dish when I was about 12 years old and It brings back nice memories now that I remember it.

Hyayna is a village near Fez and they have the reputation to make one of the best harcha galettes in Morocco. They top it with a big ball of good farm-butter made by them (each family makes their own) then break the harcha to small bits and grits. That’s about it, simple but out of this world!

The sweet version of this harcha is drizzled with mountain honey such as in Debdou.

 


Moroccan Mqualli of chicken with confit of carrots and orange juice

Moroccan Mqualli of chicken with confit of carrots and orange juice

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Moroccan Mqualli of chicken with confit of carrots and orange juice recipe is largely inspired by Nihad Rachad’s video . I did like her idea of using orange juice with the carrot topping. I was intrigued by it and it turned out to be a hit in my little family.

Moroccan Mqualli of chicken with confit of carrots and orange juice

Moroccan Mqualli of chicken with confit of carrots and orange juice. Credit @Nada Kiffa

Actually, I was intrigued by the use of orange in the topping until I digged in some old recipe books and there it was: orange can be used as of topping in a few tagines, it’s been done for ages and in different ways..

A combination that works

Although sugar is added to the confit of carrots, somehow, it does not come through as a sweet dish. That was another surprising thing in this dish which is perfect for the spring/summer season.

I just regretted we didn’t have enough topping as I was still hungry for me by the end of the meal.

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Ingredients
Serves 2
Prep: 10 min – Cooking: 1 hour ( 1 1/2 in a tagine over coal/wood)

For the chicken 

  • 1/2 chicken or 2 thighs from a big chicken, prepared (*) the Moroccan way
  • 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped tsp of freshly grated ginger or flat tsp of ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp of white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric
  • A good pinch of saffron threads (1/2 tsp)
  • 1 small stick of cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt to taste
For the confit of carrots with orange
  • 500 g of carrots, peeled and grated or finely julienned
  • 100 g of caster sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • 30 g of butter or olive oil
  • 200 ml of orange juice
Preparation
Place a pan or a tagine over medium heat. Add 1/4 of water, then all the ingredients and mix. Let simmer until the liquid has slightly reduced. Add enough hot water to cover 2/3 of the bird. Cover and cook for at least 40 min. The sauce should be reduced by then and the chicken cooked tender.
Make the confit of carrots
In a pan over medium heat, place the grated carrots along with the lemon and orange zest. Add water to cover 3/4 of the mix and blanch it for about 5 minutes.
Now that the water should have almost evaporated and the carrots are soft, add the rest of the ingredients and stir frequently for about 10 minutes. The carrots should be ready by then and the liquid all gone.
Serving

 

After cooking the chicken, you could slightly roast it for 15 minutes under a grill before serving it. Some people like this option.

 

If you have cooked the chicken in a tagine, just top it with the confit of carrots with orange.
If you have cooked in a pot or pan, place the chicken in the middle of a serving dish, pour the sauce on top and around. Top the chicken base with the carrot paste.
Serve warm with bread to soak that nice sauce.
(*) How to prepare the chicken for cooking in Moroccan Cuisine
In Morocco, we usually buy chicken from a market where it would be slaughtered the same day, on request, then treated with hot water to remove the feathers. Then the man in charge of this gives us the bird with its giblets and gizzards.
 
The bulk of chicken is then taken care of for further cleaning and tenderising, this is a woman’s job and it happens in the house, the same day the chicken was bought.
Buckets, sieves and brine are all what’s needed to go about this..I give directions for 1 bird. For more, just multiply the ingredients.
 
This job is done once but then the freezer is stocked for months.
 
I do the the same for a couple of chickens every 2 weeks in my London kitchen.
 
For health safety, make sure you clean any surface or tool in contact with chicken with hot soapy water.
 
For 1 chicken
  • About 3 liters of water or enough to cover the bird (whole or in pieces)
  • 2 tbsps vinegar, 
  • 1 tbsp of salt 
  • Lemon or orange rinds, wedges or slices

How to clean the chicken

 
First of all, clean the chicken thoroughly. Rub it with sea salt and 1/2 a lemon or butter orange. 
 
Dip it in a brine for at least 3 hours.
 
 
Try to get rid of any fat between the skin and the meat (yep, those white spots, you will never find them in a chicken cooked Moroccan style). Discard any bit of feather left as well, the membrane between the skin and the meat.
 
Be careful not to tear up the skin if you want to roast the chicken.
 
Drain, pat dry and freeze for the future or carry on with your recipe of the day.

 

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