My parents recently went to Morocco and bought a beautiful ‘tagine’ pot from one of the local markets in Rabat. If you’re not familiar with them, tagines are traditional North African/Arabian cooking pots. They’re usually made out of clay or ceramic and their conic shape is perfect for slow cooking. The classic dish that’s cooked inside these pots is also called a tagine which makes it easy to remember! (or slightly confusing, whichever way you choose to look at it ;) )
I’ve made many tagines in the past (I love Moroccan cooking) but I’d never done one in a ‘proper’ tagine dish before so I was quite excited to try my parents’ new purchase when I visited them in France last month. (Don’t worry though, you don’t need one to make this recipe!)
Tagines can be made using a wide variety of meat, fish, and vegetables but the most famous tagine incarnation is probably ‘chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives’ which is the one I chose to do. Just as there are many tagine recipes, there are also different ways to make them – some being more complicated than others. I’ve tried a few methods and the one below is still my favorite. Yes the chicken does take a little while to marinate and cook (and the smell wafting through the kitchen is like sweet torture) but it’s a very straight forward process and the resulting dish is SO worth the wait . The chicken becomes meltingly tender and fragrant, and the lemony sauce is just out of this world. My family and I were almost fighting to dip our pieces of flatbread into the pot at the end of the meal haha.
As I know most people don’t own a tagine pot, the instructions below are for a flameproof casserole dish (or anything similar you have on hand). It might not be 100% traditional but it’s still 100% delicious!
Chicken Tagine with preserved lemons and olives (serves 4)
1 chicken cut into 6-8 pieces (or 8 chicken thighs)
2 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 small preserved lemons, peel only, rinsed and sliced
½ lemon, juice only
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
150 g green olives
½ tsp saffron threads
1 cup water
2 tbs fresh coriander, chopped
Pinch of salt (optional)
1. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large bowl. Add in the ginger, turmeric, cumin and pepper and stir to combine. Add in the chicken pieces and turn to coat well. Cover and leave to rest in the fridge for at least an hour (or overnight).
2. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a flameproof casserole dish (or a saucepan than can be tightly closed with a lid) placed over medium high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook until lightly brown (about 6-8 mins) turning them half way through. You may need to do this in two batches depending on how big your pan is. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
3. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and stir in the onions. Fry the onions until soft (about 2 min) before adding in the garlic and the chicken pieces. Stir in the water, saffron, and half the lemon slices. Then cover with a lid, turn the heat down to low, and leave to simmer for 45 mins.
4. Take off the lid and stir in the olives, lemon juice and the rest of the lemon slices. Cook uncovered for another 15 mins until the sauce has slightly reduced and thickened. Taste and add salt if you feel it needs it (preserved lemons are often very salty so season with caution).
5. Take off the heat, add in the coriander, and serve with hot couscous or flatbread.