The end is nigh. Once again, my suitcases are packed and cardboard boxes filled, ready to be crammed haphazardly in my car and trundled off somewhere new (not really, it’s back to Manchester again. Curse you, long-distance relationships). Before that particular date arrives, however, I’m living out of my suitcases in an echoing and empty flat. All the furniture, apart from my bed, left with my flatmate so this spacious living situation is unusual and somewhat liberating.
There is now no kitchen table to skirt around to make a cup of tea. What luxury it is to walk directly from kettle to sink and back again. I can eat dinner in bed now there are no chairs. I can walk around naked (even though it’s quite cold. I should have done it when there was furniture for the insulation).
Strangely, one of the most thrilling aspects of this empty flat is the cosy idea of camping indoors. Like normal camping I only have limited kitchen supplies, including one saucepan, one bowl, a chopping board and a couple of knives. Along with a duvet, blanket and hot water bottle I can snuggle down with my one bowl of something warm and comforting. I can’t tell you how tempting it is to erect a tent in here, apart from the fact it’s completely unnecessary what with the roof and all. And a lighting a camp fire would probably get me evicted. Instead, I have a handy kitchen stove, so with my one saucepan and one chopping board and couple of knives I made myself a ‘one-saucepan’ supper last night.
Like one-pot dinners, a one-saucepan meal greatly reduces the washing up, but as I literally have nothing else to cook with there can’t be any side dishes, such as vegetables, potatoes, rice or pasta. Therefore, every component needs to be mixed, simmered and dolled out altogether. Stews, curries and chillies are all packed with meat and veg, however, some call for couscous, some for mashed potato, some for rice. I don’t have a second pan let alone a potato masher. So I was called to the internet and rewarded with the idea of a tagine with quinoa cooked in its fruity tomato sauce for the carby, filling accompaniment.
I combined a couple of chicken tagine recipes, resulting in something very simple with only a few ingredients, otherwise my one chopping board would get overcrowded. Traditionally made in a terracotta tagine, these North African stews are baked for hours, the steam drifting up and down the conical lid to keep the meat succulent. Mine was made on the hob in a tiny non-stick saucepan so I don’t think I can classify it as a tagine, more like a stew crammed with dried apricots and slivers of orange peel the fragrant fruity flavour. Usually served with couscous or bread to mop up the juices, the addition of quinoa thickened the sauce, absorbing excess liquid and filling the dish. Scattered with parsley my camping dinner was colourful and hearty, and so I hunkered down under my blankets in my strangely empty flat to eat.
Chicken tagine with apricots and quinoa
Cook this in the spirit of camping! I don’t have scales or even a measuring jug so the quantity is based on how much I can fit in my little saucepan. Add this and that, substitute apricots for dates or take out the preserved lemon (I’m certain mine is out of date anyway).
320g packet of boneless chicken thighs
Half an onion
1 tsp ras el hanout
¼ preserved lemon rind, finely chopped (optional)
Handful of dried apricots
2 slithers of orange peel
1 390g carton chopped tomatoes – keep the carton
1 cube of chicken stock
½ cup of quinoa
Parsley for garnish
- Chop the chicken into chunks. Heat some oil in your saucepan and, once hot, add the chicken. Sear in the hot oil until all the raw pink flesh has disappeared although the centres will still be raw. Remove from the pan.
- Dice the onion and cook until soft – about five minutes.
- Return the chicken to the pan along with the ras el hanout, apricots, orange peel and preserved lemon. Sauté gently for a couple of minutes to allow the flavours to meld.
- Boil the kettle for the stock cube. Pour the chopped tomatoes into the pan and stir altogether.
- Put the stock cube in the empty tomatoes carton and pour in enough hot water to fill it. Pour all, or as much as you can fit, into the saucepan. Gently stir the stew, then top with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove a chunk of chicken and pierce with a sharp knife to check the juices are running clear and the meat is no longer pink.
- Rinse the quinoa and add to the bubbling tagine – or, again, as much as you can fit. Season with a little salt, then cover with the lid again and cook for 10 to 12 minutes until the quinoa is cooked and tender.
- Once cooked leave the stew to stand for five minutes off the heat.
- Dollop into bowls and sprinkle with parsley.