Moroccan Chicken M'qualli (mqualli) and stuffed with sweet couscous, a combination out of this world

What I'm posting today is a very old and traditional family recipe..My sister got it from my parents. Actually, my father made his own version using Turkey while my mother used quails.

My parents are originally from Fez and if you follow the Moroccan recipes part in this blog and you are familiar with Moroccan food you may feel this is very "Fassi" (reference to what's from Fez).


And while you might think that Moroccans are crazy when they mix sweet and savoury in some of their cooking, just think again..It's all a matter of balance and whoever thought about it is a genius.

M'qualli is a way of slow cooking. The end of this process is a wonderful tender meat accompanied by a sort of onion gravy..I won't give it justice by explaining it this way, you just have to make one to "feel" it..

Coming to think about it, if you are looking for a recipe for this festive season, it's the perfect one: a stuffed bird with a gravy. The stuffing itself is rich and fragrant due to the presence of almonds, sultanas and cinnamon...You might want to give your festive dinner a Moroccan twist.



Ingredients
Serves 4 persons
Prep: 1 hour - cooking: 90 min

  • 1 chicken (weight 1.100 to 1.400 kg), or 2 quails
  • 3 onions, medium size, finely chopped
  • 1 small stick of cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of curcuma
  • 1/2 tsp of white pepper
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • A good pinch of saffron threads
  • A handful of coriander sprigs in a bouquet (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of oil (mix olive oil and vegetable oil)
The couscous stuffing
  • 2 cups of steamed couscous ( salted, oiled and steamed 3 times)
  • 1/4 cup of sultanas (pre-soaked in orange blossom water)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of homemade almond paste (70% almond-30% sugar or closer)
  • 2 tbps of sugar
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • A pinch of mastic gum (optional)


Preparation

Prepare the bird

First of all, clean the chicken thoroughly and dip it in a brine for at least 3 hours (water, vinegar, salt and lemon).


Try to get rid of any fat between the skin and the meat (yep, those white spots, you will never find them in a chicken cooked Moroccan style). Be careful not to tear up the skin..

Wash the bird from the brine, massage it with a mixture of spices (half the quantity mentioned in the ingredients' list) and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.



Make the stuffing and stuff the bird

Combine the stuffing ingredients, set aside.


Generously fill in the cavity of the bird and stitch the skin from the 2 open sides: neck and bottom.



Cooking the bird

In a deep cooking pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onions and the chicken.

Sear them for 5 min then add the spices and the bouquet if you choose to add the coriander (to be discarded at the end).


Add chicken stock or just water to cover 2/3 of the bird. Cover and let simmer.

When the bird is cooked and the sauce has reduced, fish the bird out and transfer it into a preheated oven at 220 degrees C to roast for about 20 min until it gets a nice tanning :). Keep rotating it so it's nicely golden from all sides.

While the chicken is taking nice colours, get on with the onion sauce/gravy and keep reducing it and stirring it until you get a nice thick onion paste.


The reason why Moroccans like M'qualli and can spot a good one from far is that perfect onion paste that shows how the cook placed too much love, care and time to get it right...

Place the chicken on a bed of onion gravy/paste and serve while hot..

Happy season...




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