Braised chicken with ras-el-hanout and dates

Braised chicken with ras el hanout and dates looks impressive but is simple to prepare.
Braised chicken with ras el hanout and dates looks impressive but is simple to prepare. Photo: Bonnie Savage

This is a relatively quick and easy one-pot dish that will have people thinking that you've gone to quite a lot of trouble. Just add some cous cous (the instant versions are so easy) to soak up all the delicious juices, and a salad, and you've got yourself a stunning midweek meal. This would also make a great component for a more elaborate or leisurely feast, especially one with a Middle Eastern accent.

Ingredients

1.6kg chicken, cut into 8 pieces

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

100ml extra virgin olive oil

1 brown onion, finely diced  

100g ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks

5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the flat of a knife

1 large dutch cream potato, peeled and cut into 2cm dice   

2 small red chillies, split

1½ tablespoons ras-el-hanout

3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped

½ tsp cumin seeds

2 strips lemon peel 

200ml white wine

2 tbsp honey

100g pitted dates

1 lemon, juiced

½ bunch coriander, leaves picked

cous cous (or rice), to serve

Method

1. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. 

2. Heat half the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the chicken, skin-side down first, and brown very well all over – this will take about 12 minutes, to get a lovely golden colour. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. 

3. Add a little more oil to the pan, if necessary, and cook the onion, ginger and garlic for about four minutes until softened. Add the potato and chillies and cook for three minutes. Add the ras-el-hanout and stir through, adding a little more oil if necessary. Add the tomatoes and cumin and cook for two minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, along with the lemon peel, white wine and honey, and bubble for a minute or so. Add the dates and enough water to just cover the chicken and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes. 

4. Uncover the pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is tender and cooked through and the sauce is slightly reduced. Finish with the lemon juice and serve with coriander and cous cous. 

TIPS

1. You could use chicken thighs instead of a portioned bird. 

2. The dates could be substituted with currants or fresh grapes.

3. If you don't have ras-el-hanout, two cinnamon sticks would also work.