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Invest in a pepper mill–if not a proper mill that you can refill with peppercorns, then a single-use pepper grinder from the spice aisle (you’ll throw it away when the pepper runs out). Don’t be tempted by white, pink or mixed; stick with black peppercorns for this (and most) recipes. White peppercorns don’t have as much flavor and are used in lightly flavored and/or lightly colored dishes where you don’t want little black specks. P

Smoked paprika comes in two varieties, dulce (sweet) and picante (spicy). Get the dulce. If you need heat in a dish, add cayenne powder to the smoked paprika. This is an expensive spice, but the flavor is unique.


  • Coriander and cumin, 1T each
  • Smoked paprika, 3T – 4T
  • Cayenne pepper, 1t – 2t (more if you want more)
  • Salt, 2t
  • Pepper, 12 – 15 grinds
  • Ginger: lots. Maybe about 2″. Minced.
  • Onion, white or yellow, 1 large or 2 medium.
  • Dried fruit, either figs or apricots, 1 – 2 cups.
  • Chickpeas: 2 cans, drained
  • Couscous*: 1 cup (and an equal volume of water)
  • Lemon, one
  • Optional: cauliflower florets (1 frozen bag, or one fresh head)


  1. Prep: Mince the ginger and onion. Chop the dried fruit coarsely. Use a peeler to remove the zest of the lemon in strips (just the yellow part; leave the bitter white pith).
  2. Make spices paste: Combine all the spices, including salt and pepper. Add the juice from half the lemon. Make a paste, adding a few drops of water if necessary. Rub about half of this on the chicken. Add a cup of water to the rest of the spice paste and stir to make homogenous.
  3. Bung things in: Place everything but the chicken into slow cooker in this order: onions, ginger, cauliflower (if using), chickpeas, dried fruit, lemon zest, and couscous. Pour in the cup of water with spices. Place chicken on top.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours. But check at the 4-hour mark, and then at the 5-hour mark.

If you want to splurge, buy some pine nuts or (slightly less expensive) almond slivers. Toast gently over a low flame till they brown slightly–don’t take your eyes off them for even a moment–and scatter them over the plated chicken and couscous.

After the food is done, taste it, and squeeze more lemon juice over it if it could use a little “brightening.” If you don’t use the remaining half of the lemon, wrap a damp paper towel around it, wrap that plastic film (or put into a Ziploc baggie) and refrigerate. Use soon, either in food, or in tea. Or in your hair instead of shampoo. Just kidding.

* For a change, try Israeli couscous (a.k.a. pearl couscous): larges size, a different texture, chewy in a pleasant way.