This Authentic Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemons will take you straight to Marrakech…
Before I jump into this recipe, I wanted to mention that preserved lemons are a central ingredient in this dish. If you read my last post about preserved lemons, you will understand why I chose to post a recipe for preserved lemons first. Because preserved lemons are quintessential to Moroccan cuisine. Without preserved lemons, Authentic Chicken Tagine would not be, well…Authentic. I strongly encourage you to either make your own, order them from Amazon.com or get them from a Middle Eastern market. Now back to the post.
What is Tagine?
In a general sense, tagine is a stew or a casserole-style dish that is cooked in a specially shaped pot also called a Tagine. It originated from the Berbers, the native, nomadic peoples of the deserts of North Africa whose culture greatly influenced the development of Moroccan culture as a whole. Some people believe it’s more accurate to refer to tagine cooking as a style of cooking, rather than as a specific type of dish – this makes sense considering the sheer variety of different stews that can be made in a tagine pot!
Spices Make the Dish
One common trait of nearly all tagine dishes is the liberal use of spices and aromatics. The most popular tagines in Morocco tend to feature both sweet and savory flavors – you’ll have a chicken tagine with lemons and olives or lamb tagine with prunes. Spices used include saffron, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, paprika, turmeric, and many others. While Tagines commonly feature meats and poultry, these dishes can be completely vegetarian as well!
The Tagine Pot
One unique aspect of tagine cooking is the use of the tagine pot, which is unlike anything you may have seen before in the kitchen. It is flat on the bottom but conical on top. This shape helps to enhance the amazing flavors in a tagine dish – the conical top captures all of the flavors during cooking, condenses them, and then drips back down into the food, continually basting it. For the Berbers, who lived in the desert where water was hard to come by, this shape allowed them to conserve water during cooking – it also saved space during their nomadic wandering since the cooking vessel was also used to serve the meal!
Tagines are best for long, slow cooking of tough cuts of meat, though vegetarian stews work well too.
But you don’t need a tagine to make this recipe. Use a Dutch oven or another lidded pot instead, as long as the lid fits tightly. If you choose to get a tagine, the use of a diffuser between the tagine and the heat source is essential. A diffuser is a flat metal paddle that sits between the burner and the tagine, and as the name says, it diffuses the heat so the ceramic doesn’t crack and break.
Begin by first removing the fat from the chicken, then wash it and set it aside. Then make the marinade and mix it all together. Rub the chicken with the marinade ensuring you spread it evenly.
And now, without further ado, it’s time to make our Authentic Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemons. Happy cooking!
Cook’s note: Tagines are usually served accompanied by couscous which I’m planning to post next so stay tuned for the recipe!
- 4 chicken drumsticks and 4 chicken thighs
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 preserved lemon *can make yourself* or purchase online pulp separated from peel
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley plus an extra 1 tsp for garnishing
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro plus an extra 1 tsp for garnishing
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small red onions finely sliced or 1 large one
- 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
- half cup green olives
- 1 teaspoon ghee or butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- fresh ground pepper
- Optional Harissa paste for serving on the side
- Begin by first removing the fat off the chicken then wash it and set aside.
- Now, let's make the marinate. In a large bowl add the garlic, the pulp of the preserved lemon, parsley, cilantro, 2 TSPS lemon juice, paprika, ginger, cumin, turmeric, coriander, saffron threads. Mix it altogether. Rub the chicken with marinate making sure you massage the chicken and spread the marinade all over it evenly.
- Turn on the fire on low and heat up the tagine pot, making sure to place a heat diffuser underneath, otherwise the clay pot will crack, or use a dutch oven or a large heavy skillet. Heat up the oil and start to cook the onions on a medium fire until they are soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Arrange the chicken on top of the onions and let it cook for about 3 minutes. Turn once. Cook for another 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring it to a boil. Cover the pot
- Cover the tagine pot and let it cook for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook for another 20 minutes. Add the chopped preserved lemon peel and the olives. Stir it. Cook for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle some cilantro and parsley on it and serve it with couscous or bread.
- Do not add salt until the end as the chicken and the preserved lemon is already salty.