Few things excite me more than when I receive comments from readers in countries I have or will cook in. Several weeks ago, I made preserved lemons in anticipation of making a Moroccan tagine. A few weeks later, I got a comment from a gentleman in Morocco who told me how preserved lemons are truly used in his country. Several emails later, my friend Mohammed kindly sent me an authentic Moroccan chicken tagine recipe which I am preparing tonight (and hoping meets with his approval!). Mohammed works as a translator for La Maison Arabe and does cooking workshops, in Marrakesh, Morocco. He also provides tips and advise for people visiting Marrakesh. A million thanks for your generosity, Mohammed.
But the excitement doesn't stop there - oh, no! One of my life-long bff's, gave me the most exquisite tagine for my birthday. I've never cooked with one, but tonight this beautiful piece of art/crockery makes its debut. Te quiero mami.
And, as if that wasn't enough, my friend Kate, the owner of Kamala Boutique gave me these beautiful melamine olive bowls to use for this recipe. Not only are they gorgeous to look at, but they feel and sound (when you tap them) like ceramic - so much so, that I couldn't tell the difference. Check out Kamala Boutique to see more of these beautiful dishes.
Located in North Africa, the beautiful country of Morocco is part of the Maghreb region, along with Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania, and Lybia with whom it shares cultural, historic and linguistic ties along with the country's own unique culture. Arabs and Berbers are the predominant population in Morocco.
Cuisine in Morocco is extremely diverse, owing to Berber, Moorish, Mediterranean and Arab influences. Unlike Middle Eastern cooking, Moroccans use a whole range of spices to flavor their dishes including: saffron, mint, olives, oranges, lemons, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, pepper, paprika, anise, sesame seeds, coriander, saffron and parsley. The country boasts a large variety of Mediterranean fruits and vegetables. Similarly, mutton, lamb, beef, chicken, camel, rabbit and seafood are all available. The mid-day meal is the main meal of the day, consisting of hot and cold salads, tagine, bread and/or couscous, finished with sweet mint tea. These are ingredients and dishes that look as spectacular as they taste and smell. Truly a treat for the senses.
Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives (Recipe Adapted from truebeliever)
Preparation time: 15 mintues
Cooking time: 60 minutes
1 whole cut up chicken, cut in chunks, bones in (I used thighs)
1 preserved lemon
20 preserved olives
1 medium red onion
2 Tbsp. parsley
2 Tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro)
4 cloves garlic, mashed
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. ginger powder
2 heaping tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. saffron threads, crush with a pinch of salt
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. ghee
2 cups of water or chicken stock
Cut preserved lemon in half, remove pith and pips and rind. Reserve peel and chop flesh. Put chopped lemon in a tagine (Dutch oven or creuset) - be sure to set the tagine atop a diffuser!
Add in olive oil, finely chopped garlic, parsley and coriander and spices.
Then coat the chicken in the marinade and add in finely chopped onion.
On medium heat, sear the tagine for about 15 minutes. You need to be close to the tagine, otherwise the chicken will stick. You can add a little water and keep searing if it sticks.
After 15 minutes, add about 2 cups of chicken stock or warm water and simmer for 45 minutes. When the chicken becomes nicely browned and the sauce is thick, add in lemon peel and 20 olives and cook for another 5 minutes.
Serve with couscous, salad and bread (so you can mop up all the delicious sauce)
Final Assessment: Oh, the smell, taste, colors and texture of this tagine....The whole house smelled of lemons, herbs and spices. I doubled the recipe (from 2 to 4), and not a drop was left in the tagine. This is one of those dishes I'm going to start experimenting with...maybe even tomorrow! There are many places to buy a tagine if you must have one, mine can be purchased: here.