Ranking high on our culinary ‘love lists’, Chermoula and potato roti are both ‘go to’ recipes that make it to our dinner table on a regular basis, for both family meals and dinner parties. Used in many North African countries, this regionally diverse area has spawned numerous incarnations of this parsley, cumin and garlic based marinade. Traditionally a marinade for seafood, we prefer switching it up with chicken. Nearly foolproof, the beauty of this chermoula is that any fresh shrimp or chicken breast anointed with this marinade and properly grilled, renders a perfectly balanced, exquisitely flavored dish. Its amber color with flecks of green and red are a visual treat when served, each bite evoking a moment of silence, as the brain tries to identify each flavor as it’s released in the mouth. Yes, it’s that good!
For the marinade to have flavor worthy of a master chef, we use preserved lemons and good quality spices that are as fresh as possible. Turmeric gives the dish its golden amber color as well as a subtle smoky flavor. For more intense flavor, we use freshly ground, toasted whole cumin and a sweet Hungarian or Spanish (sweet, smoked) paprika. The level of heat can be customized by the choice of dried chilis used. We grow and dry our own chilis each summer and usually use a couple of varieties for a little more flavor. Dried chili flakes, available in most markets, can also be used for this marinade.
FYI – This post is written in the order we make all three dishes when serving in the same meal.
Preserved lemons really enhance the complexity of flavor and add an earthiness to this dish. If you do not have preserved lemons, you can substitute the zest and juice of a ½ fresh lemon. Preserved lemons are a breeze to make, but do take 3-4 weeks of passive time to ferment. They can then be kept in the fridge for several months after fermenting. We usually make them 2-3 times per year, so we always have them on hand. Their flavor can give a dish swoon-worthy results, so it is so worth it to make them. You can find our Preserved Lemon recipe here.
A blender or food processor makes the marinade a quick fix. It should be just shy of a thick puree, with visible flecks of cilantro (coriander leaves) and chiles and slightly lumpy. We usually drizzle the oil in last as it will emulsify into the puree a little better.
Mix the marinade and sliced chicken pieces in a glass or stainless steel bowl, until thoroughly coated. Gallon size zip top bags work especially well for marinating, as they keep the meat completely bathed in the marinade. Just place the bag in a container large enough to hold all of the chicken. Fold the top of the bag outward, over the sides of the container, as this will keep the marinade from getting all over the ‘zipper’ at the top of the bag. Place a little marinade in the bag, add the chicken pieces and then the remaining marinade. Unfold the bag and zip the top, removing as much air as possible. This will keep the meat bathed in the marinade. If using a container, mix the marinade and the chicken pieces in a glass or stainless steel bowl, until thoroughly coated. Place in a container small enough to keep the meat completely covered by the marinade. Cover with a tightly fitted lid or plastic wrap. FYI – Turmeric will stain plastic containers. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
We usually make the mango chutney-salsa the day before or several hours ahead of the meal, as the flavors have time to meld, making it more flavorful. The mango does not have to be super ripe, but should not be green (that’s another recipe). You can customize the heat with your choice of chile peppers. We chose Fresno peppers (similar to jalapenos), with a milder heat, as the chermoula and the Potato Roti also have some heat.
When mangos are ripe but still firm, they peel very easily with a vegetable peeler, which only removes the skin, leaving more of the sweet flesh. Remove the large seed, which is easier to do when the flesh is cut into wedges first and then cut along the inner edge, where the flesh connects with the seed.
Dice the mango into even ¼” cubes and finely chop the peppers, onions, and cilantro. Mix the mango, peppers, onions and cilantro together in a non-reactive bowl and toss with lime juice and salt to taste. Vibrant colors for the hungry eye and juicy sweet flavor and crunchy texture with a hint of heat perfectly enhances the flavors found in the chicken and roti.
Cover with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container at room temperature let sit for 2 hours prior to serving. If you are making this the day ahead refrigerate immediately. Remove from the fridge 2 hours prior to serving so it isn’t cold, stirring a few times. The citrus and salt help create a glossy glaze. Serve as an accompaniment to the chicken and roti.
Popular in India, South Asia and parts of the Carribbean (especially Trinidad) roti/ parathas are usually stuffed with spiced-up potatoes, vegetables or paneer (an Indian cottage cheese). This recipe is a family favorite, often only slathered with ghee or butter. Its layer of spicy potatoes (aloo) cloaked in thin layers of dough elevate this simple flatbread to insanely satisfying. Best when piping hot, it can be made ahead and kept warm in the oven when layered between tea towels in a covered baking dish. We like to double the recipe, individually wrapping and freezing the leftover roti for another meal.
Starchy, floury potatoes (russets, Idaho) are a must, as they become smooth and creamy when mashed. Waxy potatoes (reds, Yukon Golds) tend to be thick and lumpy. We use a ricer for a smooth consistency, but they can be also be mashed, taking care that no lumps remain.
After lightly toasting and grinding the spices, thoroughly mix into the potatoes. If using pre-ground spices, you do not need to toast them. Fresh, fragrant spices are a must in this recipe. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to cool.
This dough can be mixed by hand (we used a dough whisk), a mixer fitted with a dough hook or or a food processor fitted with a plastic kneading blade. After sifting the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and whisk a few times to mix. Gradually add the water, mixing until it comes together in a ball. It will look shaggy when it first comes together.
After kneading for 2-3 minutes (less with electric appliances), the dough will become very supple. Place in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1-3 hours.
About 15 minutes prior to rolling out the dough, divide the cooled potato mixture into 6 equal portions and shape into balls. Cover with plastic wrap.
After the dough has rested, manually knead for 1-2 minutes and then divide into 6 equal pieces and cover lightly to keep from drying out while rolling out the dough. Flatten with your hands or roll each piece out with a rolling pin, using a small amount of flour (if needed), to a 5-6″ (12-15 cm) circle.
Place a ball of the potato mixture in the center of the circle of dough and gently wrap/ stretch the dough around the potato filling.
Pinch the edges of dough together to seal in the potato mixture. Lightly brush the surface with oil or ghee and place on an oiled plate and cover with a kitchen towel. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough and potato filling, making sure the filled dough balls are not touching one another when placed on the oiled plate.
Preheat your griddle on medium high heat. Flatten the filled dough ball slightly with your hands, then gently and evenly roll out to an 8″ (20 cm) circle of even thickness, taking care to keep the filling enclosed in the dough. If there is a small tear, just mend it by pinching the dough. Air pockets may form, which is fine and it’s best not to pop them open. Roll out another roti as one roti is being cooked. If you want to roll all of the roti out before cooking, place individually between pieces of parchment paper.
Prepare a covered baking dish to keep the roti warm once they are cooked by lining it with a tea towel. Large tortilla warmers also work well.
The cooking surface must be very hot, otherwise the roti can stick and won’t cook evenly. When a drop of water on the griddle sizzles and evaporates in 2-3 seconds, it should be hot enough. Brush the griddle lightly with oil or ghee. Slap one roti/ paratha on the hot griddle. Brush the top of the roti with a light coating of oil/ ghee.
FYI – Our large, flat Loge cast iron griddle pan works perfectly for cooking these flatbreads. Each region of the world has their own pan for cooking flatbreads such as tawas, tavas and the saj. They are usually made of sheet iron or steel, aluminum or cast iron.
If cooking on an electric stove or hot plate, a flat bottom pan is best as the concave style pan will not cook evenly on the flat heat surface.
After 1-2 minutes or when the bottom is lightly mottled with golden brown spots, flip the roti over. Brush with a bit more oil/ ghee. The roti may begin to puff up, which is normal. Remove as soon as the underside is only lightly mottled, while still soft and pliable. If overcooked, it will become crunchy and hard. Fold the roti into quarters and place inside the prepared baking dish. Wrap with the towel and cover. Repeat until all are cooked. If necessary, place the covered baking dish in a slightly warm oven (100 °F/ 38 °C) to keep warm.
Preheat the grill to 350 °F (175 °C). We have used both our outdoor flame grill and electric indoor grill. If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for 20-30 minutes so they won’t char during grilling. Loosely thread the marinated chicken onto the skewers, leaving as much marinade on the meat as possible. To insure the meat cooks evenly, don’t compact the pieces too closely together. Grill until done, but still tender, turning after the first 4-5 minutes. We take them off the grill at an internal temperature of 160 °F (70 °C), as the meat temperature continues to climb to 165 °F (74 °C) in the 5-10 minutes it takes to plate everything.
Tender and juicy morsels of chicken that are slightly crispy.
Add a little pungent sweetness
Wrap it all in a spicy, potato roti/ paratha… it doesn’t get much better. Purely divine!