Friday, 22 June 2012

A Moroccan Crew Lunch in Cornwall

It's been an age since I did a crew lunch recipe. What with all the Queen stuff and the weird Westward Cup, (it was weird and I would rather not do a regatta based on politics and money again) I've been a bit out of sync.

But here we are in Falmouth, Cornwall with a good week or so before the Pendennis regatta which in huge contrast, is the best regatta ever! The Pendennis organisers throw a great event, give the best of Cornish welcomes and have the correct understanding that if it wasn't for us little crew folk, there wouldn't be a regatta because there wouldn't be anybody to sail these great big,  beautiful classic sailing boats. It is the crews who have the skills, the know-how and the passion for it. It is the crews who work incredibly hard, set the tone of the atmosphere, the evening vibe; and boy do they know how to drink. Being a professional sailor often means being a dab hand at the bar too, a skill that merely encompasses all the wonderful traditions and ancient history of a life at sea. Pendennis understands all this and throws a damn fine regatta ensuring boats come back here from far and wide to race again and again.


And back to lunch.

So I made for my hard-working, highly skilled, beer-swilling crew (just kidding - some of us prefer Gin), a little Moroccan number which I always find has a nice lunch-time ring about it. Moroccan is easy enough to make without having to buy one of those expensive Moroccan spice-mixes you get at supermarkets these days. Basically for Moroccan I always work ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika, and cinnamon together. Get some flaked almonds and dried apricots in there somewhere and bish-bash-bosh, you have a Moroccan meal!

Obviously there is a teeny-weeny bit more involved and I have never been to Morocco but I have on more than one occasion considered taking belly-dancing lessons...

However for now I shall give you the recipe for a very easy butternut and chickpea couscous served with a light, fantastically tasty chicken in yoghurt and tahini with mint and lemon. Serve with hot pitta breads and salad and your crew will not go hungry.

Soaks it up too. (Really I'm just kidding, we're not a bunch of piss-heads, we're all highly professional here)

So for a quick and easy Moroccan lunch for 6 you will need;

For the Couscous;
400g couscous
1 butternut squash, chopped into bite sized bits and peeled (which is optional)
1 tin of chicpeas
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
150g dried apricots, roughly chopped
toasted flaked almonds to garnish
hot chicken stock or water
knob of butter or a dash of olive oil

For the Yoghurt, Tahini and mint chicken you will need;
4-6 chicken breasts
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp black sesame seeds (optional)
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds (optional)
2-3 small pots of natural yoghurt
2 tbsp mint sauce
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp tahini paste (if you don't have this then use peanut butter, yum)
1 clove of fresh garlic, crushed
fresh mint leaves to garnish

  • To begin, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5, 190C, 375F. Slice each chicken breast into 4-5 pieces and fry in batches in a hot frying pan until very lightly golden but still a bit pink inside. When each batch is done, set aside on a baking tray. When you have browned all the pieces, drizzle over the lemon juice, season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and yellow mustard seeds. Pop into the oven to finish cooking for about 30 minutes.

  • In a large non-stick pan saute the onions in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes till translucent and starting to colour gently. Add the chopped butternut, stir fry on high for a few minutes and then cover with a lid. Turn the heat down to low.

  • Meanwhile, put the couscous into a big bowl. Pop in the butter or olive oil and a good pinch of salt. pour over the hot chicken stock or boiling water from the kettle to just about cover the couscous and give it all a good stir then put a large plate or cling film over the bowl so that the steam is trapped, cooking the couscous perfectly.

  • And whilst the butternut is softening now is also a good time to mix the yoghurt, tahini paste, lemon juice and zest, mint sauce and garlic in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Check to see if the butternut has cooked. If it has stir in the chic peas, tomato pure and all the spices and season with salt and pepper. Let it have a bit of a sizzle then add about 300 ml hot water from the kettle. Stir and cook this for another few minutes then add the chopped apricots. Continue cooking until the butternut is completely cooked through and the apricots have softened a little. Check the seasoning. At this point I added a tablespoon of mango chutney but that's just me.

  • With a fork, fluff up the couscous. Add about two thirds to the butternut and chickpeas and stir to combine. To serve, spoon the last third onto a serving dish and make a well in the centre. Pour the mixed couscous and butternut mixture into the well. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and some chopped fresh coriander or parsley.

  • Once the chicken has cooked, remove from the oven. Let it cool for a few moments  and pour off any excess juices. I kept about 4 to 5 tbsp to add to the yoghurt but ditched the rest.  Once the chicken has cooled off slightly, stir into the yoghurt mixture along with the saved juices. Pour into your chosen serving dish and garnish with lemon wedges and lots of torn fresh mint leaves.

So that might look long but its all pretty straight forward and do-able on a hob. If you don't have the oven just turn the heat down on the chicken when it's in the frying pan and make sure you fry it till its fully cooked. Oh and pop the pittas in the toaster.

A great, easy and filling lunch for a group of hungry people. And fun to try out the spices and go all Moroccan.
Falmouth is great fun, Pasties are so delicious and I must regulate my consumption of them to a max of one a day...
I'll try.
Thanks for reading!

Leaving the Solent and heading for Falmouth