Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemon

8 Jan

I was very happy to see that Alice went Moroccan with her last dish. I am fascinated with Morocco, with the fragrant spices and the combination of ingredients that I’ve seen in their recipes. I imagine how amazing the sights and smells would be walking through a spice market there… with the overwhelming scent of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, saffron as well as the intense colors all around.

I’ve also always wanted to cook in a tagine. The traditional tagine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving.

Well, my friend and fellow foodie, Randy just happens to have a tagine as well as the nicest, best equipped kitchen that I’ve ever had the privilege to cook in. And he was kind enough to offer the use of his kitchen for this meal. And I was quick to take him up on his offer!

We discovered that this recipe can be made in an iron bottom tagine or in a heavy bottomed pot.

Moroccan tagines often combine the meat with fruits and complex spices, so I picked a recipe that paired chicken with olive and preserved lemon. This all sounds crazy and exotic, but I found this recipe was quite a simple one.

It calls for a whole chicken, which we purchased already all cut up. I browned the chicken for a few minutes in the pan over medium heat, with olive oil, a pinch of powdered ginger, turmeric (a bright yellow spice), some salt, pepper, one chopped onion and a few threads of saffron, which is a super expensive spice that is dried crocus flower stamens. I then turned the chicken pieces over and added to the pan a chopped tomato, one chopped handful of both flat leaf parsley and cilantro. Then I poured two cups of water over the whole mixture, added four peeled cloves of garlic and let it simmer for 45 minutes.

When the chicken was fully cooked (full disclosure here… I forgot to time the chicken so we think it had cooked for the full 45 min) we checked it for doneness by cutting into the thickest part and making sure the juices ran clear. Your timing on cooking meat in this case doesn’t have to be precise, as long as you can tell if it is done.

When the chicken was done, we removed one ladle full of the cooking juices, added it along with the chopped preserved lemon and pitted olives to a small saucepan and let it boil over medium/high heat until the liquid thickened a bit and reduced in size.

Next time (and I will definitely make this another time), I will remove most of the liquid from the cooking pan and thicken it in the saucepan and then pour it back over the chicken. That sauce was delicious!

Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemon
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large white or yellow onions, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground dried ginger*
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric*
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 saffron threads, crumbled (optional)*
1 tomato, chopped
one small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
one small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
2 cups of water
6 oz (180g) Kalamata olives, pitted
1 preserved lemon, quartered and seeds removed (can be bought in
specialty food shops, or you can make it yourself – recipe here)


To Cook the Chicken

With the base of the tagine (or heavy bottomed pan) on the stove, over medium heat add enough olive oil coat the bottom of the pan. Add the
spices. Arrange the chicken in the pan
(skin-side down), and distribute the onions all around. Cook for about 7
minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over and add the tomato, cilantro,
parsley, garlic and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low
and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes.

When chicken is done cooking, remove most of the liquid to a saucepan,
add the olives and preserved lemon to the liquid and boil for 5-10
minutes, until liquid is thickened and reduced a bit. Pour the thickened
sauce over the chicken to serve.

*Instead of all those spices, you can use this Moroccan Road Spice which was quite delicious and a simpler all-in-one spice mix.

We had a great time cooking this dish and Randy, his wife Sarah and I all agreed that this was a delicious, sophisticated, subtly flavored dish. And the recipe we used did not even call for it to be cooked in the tagine, but we did use the beautiful pot as our serving dish.

We paired this main dish with a side of Rice Pilaf with Golden Raisins and Pinenuts.

I adapted this recipe that I found on Epicurious. I doubled the recipe and used pine nuts instead of the pistachios called for in the original recipe and would definitely make it again. It was very nicely spiced and both echoed and enhanced the spices used in the chicken dish.

Rice Pilaf with Golden Raisins and Pinenuts

1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup long-grain rice
2/3 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted lightly and cooled
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens (or chopped parsley)


In a small heavy saucepan cook the onion with the turmeric and the cardamom in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened. Add the rice and cook it, stirring, until it is coated with the butter. Add the broth, bring the liquid to a boil, covered, and simmer the mixture for 17 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat. Stir in the pine nuts, the raisins and add salt and pepper to taste. Top with the sliced scallion greens or chopped parsley

Alice, thanks for the trip to exotic Morocco! Now it’s your turn!


5 Responses to “Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemon”

  1. Bernice Knowles 08/01/2012 at 5:15 pm #

    You would have made you dad very proud of you! The recipes look wonderful. Mom

    • Alice 09/01/2012 at 7:37 am #

      What a lovely comment Bernice.

      I hope you know some of your recipes have been passed on to me also. Your ‘spiced chicken in the oven’ in particular.


    • Brenda 09/01/2012 at 9:42 am #

      Thank you, Mom! I kept wanting to ask Dad’s advice while I was planning this meal. 🙂


  2. Randy T. 09/01/2012 at 8:46 am #

    My wife Sarah and I got to enjoy this amazing dinner. The rice pilaf paired beautifully with the amazing chicken. I have to tell you it presented as beautifully as it tasted and the fragrance was truly old world exotic! I too would definitely make both dishes again and agree that the sauce reduction was superb and I would do more of it next time. We are hoping B becomes a regular fixture in our kitchen!


    • Brenda 09/01/2012 at 9:43 am #


      It’s always a pleasure to spend time with you two and to cook in that amazing kitchen of yours!

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