Chicken Tagine

This is another recipe that takes us right back to Marrakech. We spent a spectacular last night of our holiday eating on the roof terrace of a glorious restaurant near our riad (Le Foundouk, recommended by those wonderful people at Lonely Planet). We had read that it was beautiful with a gorgeous, romantic roof terrace but we weren’t quite prepared for the candlelit terrace, draped in scented plants which gave tables privacy while the stars twinkled overhead. Bird chose a traditional chicken tagine made with preserved lemons, olives and onions and this is what we have tried to recreate here (although not quite in the epic proportions it was served in Marrakech… a tiny Bird cannot eat half a large chicken!).

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 4 small portions of chicken (we used bone in thighs for great flavour)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium white onions, chopped into strips
  • 2 preserved lemons, deseeded and finely chopped
  • A large handful of olives (black or green are fine, we used black kalamata olives)
  • 1 heaped tsp of Ras el Hanout or Baharat spice mix
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • (optional: a pinch of saffron strands – these really do add a honeyed flavour to the dish and beautiful colour but don’t worry if you don’t have any, it will still be lovely!)
  • Enough chicken stock to cover
These little strands of saffron are magical!
These little strands of saffron are magical!

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Heat the olive oil in a casserole dish over a medium heat and once shimmering add in the chicken pieces skin side down and brown. Once they have some colour turn them over to briefly seal on the other side and then remove from the pan. Add in the chopped onions and turn the heat down to as low as it goes. Cook the onions for at least 5 minutes so they are starting to take on some of the brown colour from the chicken and to soften. After this time add in the spices and cook for a further minute until they are aromatic and the coriander seeds are beginning to pop. Make up around half a litre of chicken stock and put the saffron strands in to infuse if you’re using them.

We kept the stones in the olives, it's much easier. If you do the same then make sure everyone is aware of it!
We kept the stones in the olives, it’s much easier. If you do the same then make sure everyone is aware of it!

Throw in all of the rest of the ingredients aside from the chicken, stir to combine and then pop the chicken on top, skin side up so it is just poking out of the liquid (you may need to top up the liquid with some water). Unlike a British or French type of stew Moroccan ones aren’t generally thickened in our experience, instead they come with a light liquid which is perfectly mopped up with cous cous so don’t worry if it looks a bit sloppy, it’s meant to! Put the casserole dish in the oven and cook for around 1 hour, making sure to give it a prod about halfway through the cooking time. Serve simply with plain cous cous and some chopped fresh parsley and/or coriander if you wish.

Leave the chicken poking above the liquid, so that it goes nice and crispy
Leave the chicken poking above the liquid, so that it goes nice and crispy
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