Couscous tfaya

This chicken couscous recipe originates in the Moroccan city of Fes (or Fez). Full of warming spices and fragrant saffron, it's finished with a tfaya sauce, which is flavoured with caramelised onions, honey and raisins. This recipe is taken from Casablanca: My Moroccan Food by Nargisse Benkabbou (Mitchell Beazley, £20). Image by Matt Russell.

First published in 2019

This couscous is very special to me, and it used to be my favourite couscous when I was a child. Both my parents are from Fes, where tfaya originates and I spent the majority of my childhood holidays there with my mum, grandmother and aunts, wandering around the souk of the old medina or watching them cook gigantic feasts. The whole recipe is really easy to prepare and doesn’t require more than an hour’s cooking on the hob.




Tfaya sauce


Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, turmeric, ginger, salt, pepper and saffron and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally
Add the chicken legs to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil over a high heat. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and leave to simmer gently for 45 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas, re-cover the pan and continue simmering for a further 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the tfaya sauce. Heat the olive oil in a separate large saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the onions, cover the pan and leave to cook for about 20 minutes until they are soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, soak the raisins in hot water for 10 minutes until softened, then drain and set aside
When the onions are soft, add the softened raisins, honey, cinnamon and salt and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until the onions are lightly golden, stirring occasionally. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil over a high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 25 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated and you have a thick golden brown sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary
By the time your tfaya sauce is ready, the chicken should be fully cooked and ready to be served. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. To serve, place the warm cooked couscous on a large serving plate, top with the chicken, broth and chickpeas and finally add the tfaya sauce. Garnish with the toasted flaked almonds if desired

Nargisse Benkabbou is a London-based chef and author. While growing up in Brussels, her parents filled their kitchen with the flavours of their native Morocco, instilling in Nargisse a passion for exploring her culture through food.

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