Morrocan Chicken



It’s the day we’ve all been dreading (me more than the cat) : it’s the annual veterinary telling off. Last year the telling off centred on the fact that I don’t clean the cat’s teeth; the year before it was suspected fleas. I dread to think what it’ll be this year. 

We arrive back from the school run and I corner the cat by the back door. He recoils in alarm: I have the cat comb in my hand. As he is never groomed, he knows immediately something is up. I give him a vigorous brush to remove any old fleas that are lurking. The cat is half enjoying the attention, half highly suspicious. He begins purring, then thinks better of it and attacks the comb, nearly savaging my hand.

I tell Ollie we must refer to it as the V.E.T’s otherwise Alfie will run a mile. He relishes this and speaks to the cat in a loud, slow voice as if this will get the message across better: 

“YOU. ARE. GOING. TO. THE. V.N.Ts. DO. NOT. BE. SCARED.”

He refers to it as the V.N.Ts all day which makes me think of some kind of animal liberation group rather than a veterinary practice. 

We’re finally in the car and I realise it is 10am which is the time of our appointment. I quickly put a call through to the receptionist to say we’ll be five minutes late. The response is frosty, until I tag on that it took time to get the cat in to the basket. She immediately softens and purrs down the phone that we are to take our time.

This is an out and out lie; I cannot blame the cat for being late. He behaved impeccably: I opened the basket, he strolled in (like a lamb to the slaughter), I shut the door. Simple.

We are late because: 1) Ollie wanted a third breakfast and (2) I wanted a cup of tea. I can not be told off on an empty stomach. 

At the V.E.T’s Alfie’s teeth are checked: all fine; his fur is examined: flea-free. We are nearly home and dry and out the door when she announces in a grave voice that Alfie is…..over-weight. Well come on, I think, it happens to us all: it’s winter, the dark nights, you don’t go out so much, you comfort eat. 

But apparently it’s more serious than that. He’s become obese. There must be diet food and a monthly weigh-in clinic where his weight loss progress will be measured along side other tubby felines. 

I feel sorry for Alfie. I’ve been there: the humiliation of standing on the scales in front of others; the daily debate of what to use your  ‘free’ points on: glass of wine or chocolate bar (in Alfie’s case dental biscuits or, er, dental biscuits). I just hope they give him a little gold badge if he loses 10% of his body weight like I got. He could pin it on his collar and it could keep him motivated.

At home this evening it is time to put together our dinner. The cat is going crazy with all this chicken around. Poor animal, I think, it doesn’t have many pleasures in life, apart from killing innocent blue-tits. I give him his own bowl of Morrocan Chicken, minus the vegetables and spices. The diet can wait til tomorrow.



Morrocan Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive/veg oil
  • 2 onions, one chopped, one finely sliced
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger, chopped
  • 100g fresh or tinned tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 1tbsp each of cumin, coriander, cinnamon 
  • Half a large pumpkin, deseeded and cut into melon slices
  • 1 pint chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp each of brown sugar & red wine vinegar.
  • 250g left over chicken
  • 100g dried cherries or cranberries or apricots

To serve

  • One small red onion, finely chopped
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 100g feta, crumbled
  • Handful mint leaves
  • Natural yogurt
  • Rice or couscous

Preheat oven at 180 degrees. Rub 1bsp of oil and some sea salt on the pumpkin wedges. Roast for 20 mins. 

In the meantime, in a food processor whizz the chopped onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes in to a paste. 

Fry the sliced onion in a little oil until softened. Add the spices and fry for a minute until fragrant. Add the paste & fry until softened. Add the stock, sugar and vinegar and simmer gently for 15 minutes. 

Take the pumpkin from the oven & remove the skin. Cut it into chunks and add it with the chicken to the stock. Stir in the dried fruit. 

Cook for another 10 minutes until sauce has thicken and chicken has heated through. 

Serve with rice or couscous and sprinkle the lemon zest, mint & feta on top. 

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