When I was growing up in France, my mom used to make a dish similar to this recipe that I've called Moroccan Chicken Stew. As kids, we called it Cous Cous because it is traditionally ladled over Moroccan cous cous, which is a coarsely ground semolina pasta. The debate is great as to whether it should even be called pasta! But I'm not focused on that in this post, but rather on the stew itself. Read on!
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Mom always made this with chicken, but I've read that maybe lamb would be more common in Morocco. If you like lamb, you might try it, but my memories of wonderful family times around the table enjoying this stew prompt me to continue using chicken.
You can use chicken breasts or thighs or a combination of both. Cube it and brown it in a large Dutch oven.
My version of Moroccan Chicken Stew continues with the three standards of a mirepoix ... onions, celery, carrots ... plus garlic. Chop them all up and add them to the browned chicken.
What kind of spices are in Moroccan Chicken Stew?
Moroccan Chicken Stew is hearty and flavorful, using several spices. Don't worry, though, they are all spices that you probably already have in your cupboard.
When Mom learned to make this in France, she bought a spice blend that was specific for this recipe. It was called Cous Cous Spice. (But en francais, bien sur!) Obviously, she couldn't find that back here in the States so we missed having this for dinner for many years!
I can't remember how or where, but I came across a recipe that sounded curiously like our beloved Cous Cous. It was so close to what I remembered from my childhood and it called for curry powder, cayenne pepper, and paprika. I made Moroccan Chicken Stew using those spices for many years. A search for "couscous spice" on Amazon showed many options for Ras Al Hanout ... maybe that's what was sold in France, but I haven't tried that.
In my attempt to make my recipes approachable, I did a bit of research on curry powder. I learned that curry powder is simply a blend of spices! I can certainly blend some of my OWN spices, right?! But which ones? How about cumin, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, and a bit of chili? That worked, believe it or not! Add the spices after browning the chicken and aromatics and allow them to become fragrant in the heat.
Then add chickpeas, tomato sauce and a bit of water or broth.
I keep this stew pretty simple. Mom usually added potatoes. This might have been to inexpensively make a meal more filling for the five kids - of which 4 were boys! - she was trying to fill up without breaking the food budget!
It is also traditional to also add some almonds and raisins. This would not be well met by the diners around my table although I'm sure it would be delicious!
As you can tell in the close up photo above, I didn't serve it on cous cous, but rather on rice. I have found gluten-free cous cous in my grocery store, but had no luck at the time I was making this stew. So rice it was! (I would love to link to a gluten-free cous cous, but I haven't tried the ones I found so couldn't do it in good faith.)
Serve Moroccan Chicken Stew with extra cayenne or red pepper flakes for those who like the extra kick that a dish from Northern Africa should have!
Other recipes you might like:
Moroccan Chicken Stew
- 3 Tablespoons oil
- 1½ pounds chicken cubed (white or dark ... whatever you prefer)
- 1 medium onion chopped, about a cup
- 1 cup celery chopped
- 1 cup carrots sliced
- 5 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1½ teaspoons coriander
- 2 teaspoons dried ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne adjust according to those you are serving
- ⅔ cup chickpeas soaked and cooked (See notes)
- 1½ cups tomato sauce
- 1½ cups water
- Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil, then the chicken. Allow it to brown, then add the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent.
- Add the spices and allow them to become fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Add the chickpeas, followed by the tomato sauce and water.
- Simmer for at least 30 minutes.
- Serve over cous cous or rice. Provide extra cayenne or red pepper flakes.
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