Chicken Tagine with Almonds

This is a chicken kdara, a tagine cooked in strong Moroccan butter – smen – with a rich and flavourful yellow onion-based sauce reduced to butter-like softness. For this chicken kdara, the almonds are blanched for an hour as we want them to go with the softness of the dish

Serves 6 people

3200 g (11 oz) blanched whole almonds
900 ml (1 ½ pints) chicken stock or water
2 medium onions, finely sliced
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 cinnamon stick
pinch pulverised saffron
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
2 tablespoons smen
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cover the almonds with cold water and simmer, covered, for 2 hours – until they are soft. Wash the chicken in salted water and drain. Crash 4 cloves of garlic and make into a paste with 2 tablespoons of salt. Rub into the chicken and then rinse under running water until the chicken no longer smells of garlic. Drain and set aside.

Place the chicken in a 5-quart deep casserole over medium heat and add the smen, half the saffron, spices, one onion, salt and pepper and cook until the chicken is browned. Cover with chicken stock or water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes – until the chicken is tender. Turn the meat often and add water whenever necessary.

After 30 minutes, add the remaining onions and parsley to the casserole and continue cooking until the chickens are very tender, nearly falling off the bone, and the sauce is thick.

Drain the almonds and add to the sauce along with the remaining saffron 1 or 2 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve at once.