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Chermoula Chicken

I’ve long been fascinated by exotic spice blends: harissa, ras al hanout, dukkha and chermoula all conjure up far flung, mysterious places where women are draped in silks and the heady scents of spices waft through the air.  The fact that you I’m more likely to find them in the fifth aisle of the supermarket is neither here nor there.  I love to make my own harissa and dukka, and have a brilliant chermoula spice blend courtesy of Steenberg’s (who sell very good spices, if you’re interested), but I had never attempted my own version.  Inspired by a friend visiting for lunch and armed with a little bit of research (always start with garlic and coriander as your base, apparently), I prepared this fragrant blend of delightful and probably not authentic spices: turmeric (for colour and earthy flavour), cumin, coriander, caraway (I love it), cinnamon, smoked paprika, garlic and chilli.  It is simply a list of my favourite spices all blended together to make my new preferred multi-purpose marinade.  Hurrah. 

I’m convinced that it would be delicious as the spice base to a tagine, used to flavour roasted carrots and/or parsnips, sprinkled over roast chicken (a favourite) and as a marinade for pork tenderloin.  This time, I’ve chose to make these delicious chermoula chicken kebabs.  With the first peaks of spring beginning to show: warm mornings, the fresh scent of grass remerging, crocus and snowdrops in the wood.  I wanted to make a lunch that crosses us over from winter sustenance to spring time pleasure.  The heat and spice from the chermoula offers the warmth and body, while grilling the chicken as kebabs adds that slight hint of smokiness that makes me think of the lightness of spring and the smell of woodsmoke drifting on the breeze.  I like to serve it with a bowl of rice or quinoa, chopped avocado, sweet tomatoes and a generous amount of coriander.  Completely authentic it may not be but it is seriously delicious and incredibly quick and simple - do try it.


Serves 4

You will need pre-soaked (to stop them catching fire) wooden skewers for this recipe

For the chermoula

½ tsp turmeric

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp caraway seeds

1 clove of garlic, crushed

½ tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp soft brown sugar

¼ tsp cinnamon

2 tsp smoked paprika

The juice of 1 lemon

3 tbsp groundnut oil


8 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless

A generous bunch of coriander

Heat a small frying pan and dry fry the cumin, coriander and caraway seeds until lightly golden and releasing their fragrant scent.  Remove from the heat and using a pestle and mortar, grind until a fine powder.  Mix together the ground, toasted spices with the remaining herbs spices, sugar, lemon juice, garlic and oil, season well and mix until combined.

Slice each chicken thigh widthways into 2 – 3 strips depending on their size.  Combine the chermoula and chicken in a sealable freezer bag, squeeze out any air, seal the bag and then massage the marinade into the meat through the bag before leaving to marinate for 2 – 3 hours or overnight.  You can at this point, depending on how long you intend to marinate the chicken, put the wooden skewers into soak so that they are ready for grilling.

Preheat the grill to medium – high.  When ready, thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers and place under the grill, cook for around 8 -12 minutes, turning the chicken regularly, until cooked through and starting to brown on the edges.  Serve immediately with torn leaves of fresh coriander.

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Reader Comments (8)

This looks really good and an interesting spice mix, I'm definitely going to try it this weekend.

March 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Thanks Simon, glad you like it and do let me know how it goes.

March 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Intolerant Gourmet

This looks gorgeous and I love the photography - really beautiful colours. I can't wait to give it a go!

March 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Hi Emily, thanks so much, I'm glad you like it. I think we need a bit of brightness at this time of year to remind us that Spring is just round the corner.

March 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Intolerant Gourmet

Pippa, I'm new to the world of food intolerance and won't deny that I was fairly depressed when I found out about my diagnosis of both gluten and diary intolerance. BUT a girlfriend purchased your book for me as a gift and I haven't looked back! Last night I cooked your vegetable lasagne and tonight I cooked your Chermoula chicken. Both were delicious (the latter was AMAZING!) and my husband loved them too - he has no intolerances at all. You have given me hope and I shall be glued to your site from this day on! Thank you.

March 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

Hi Natalie
I'm so delighted that you like the blog and the book and that I've managed to help cheer up your cooking in some way. And I'm so pleased that you and your husband are getting to eat the same thing and enjoying it, that's my aim! If you like the Chermoula spices then I really recommend the Tagines and Lebanese Chicken from the book too.
Thanks for commenting and happy cooking!

March 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Intolerant Gourmet

Love this website and so glad to have found it! Your recipes all sound delicious, it's so hard to be creative and know what to cook when you're trying to cut certains foods out. Thanks so much! Just need to decide what to try first.....

January 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

Hi Emma
Thanks so much for your kind words and I'm really pleased you like it. I can highly recommend starting with the Chermoula Chicken, it goes particularly well with the Falafel featured, a little hummus and my Aubergine & Courgette Salad with Tahini Dressing! Just a thought!
Happy cooking.

January 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Intolerant Gourmet

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