This superb Berber Chicken Couscous Recipe is a celebratory meal, served at weddings and on other religious occasions. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a pre-wedding dinner in the little village of Ouled Ben Blida, where my friend Muhammed’s daughter was getting married.
His wife, Aicha, cooked this wonderful couscous, served with freshly baked bread from their outdoor, wood-fired oven. For the wedding they had brought in extra couscous, fizzy drinks and flour to make bread; they were expecting over a hundred guests from the local tribes. Here’s my take on Aicha’s beautiful chicken dish.
– 3 tbsp olive oil
– 4 full chicken legs (e.g. legs and thighs, not just drumsticks)
– 1 red onion, finely chopped
– 2 garlic cloves, sliced
– 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
– 4 tbsp tomato purée
– Small pinch of saffron threads
– 2 tsp paprika
– 2 tsp ground cumin
– 1 tsp ground turmeric
– 1 tsp ground ginger
– Handful of finely chopped coriander leaves and stalks, plus extra to garnish
– 400ml chicken stock
– 350g baby aubergines, slit down the middle
– 3 green chillies, skins pricked with a sharp knife
– 60g pitted black olives
– 200g couscous
– 20g flaked almonds
– Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil in a large, shallow pan over a medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and brown for 3–4 minutes each side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
2. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3–4 minutes until soft. Throw in the garlic and cook for 10 seconds until fragrant then add the tomatoes and mix well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2–3 minutes so the tomatoes break down then add the tomato purée, spices and coriander. Season with salt and pepper, pour in the stock and mix well.
3. Return the chicken to the pan, and put the aubergines and chillies on top. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 45 minutes–1 hour, or until the chicken is cooked and the aubergines soft.
4. Remove the lid and increase the heat slightly so the sauce starts to bubble away. Add the olives and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10–15 minutes until the sauce reduces a little.
5. Meanwhile, put the couscous in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and pour over enough just-boiled water to cover by about 0.5cm. Cover with cling film and set aside until the water has been absorbed. Fluff up with a fork once ready.
6. Scatter the extra coriander and flaked almonds over the cooked chicken and serve immediately with the couscous.
John Gregory-Smith is a food and travel, presenter and chef. He has written four cookbooks: Orange Blossom & Honey, Turkish Delights, Mighty Spice and Mighty Spice Express.
Having launched a spice brand into Sainsbury’s at age 24, John then moved into food writing and presenting and has worked all over the globe.
John currently lives in London and travels the world, visiting some of the most far-flung, remote destinations for inspiration. He has a particular interest in North African, Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean food.
Taken from Orange Blossom & Honey by Jon Gregory-Smith. Published by Kyle Books. Photography by Martin Poole and Alan Keohane.