Moroccan food is exotic, aromatic and full of colour. Its amazing array of ingredients is a pleasure for all of our senses. There's no doubt about it, Moroccan cuisine is full of quality, plus, the variety of sweets, very sweet, the combination of spices, and the mix of the sweet and sour, makes this unique gastronomy one of the best in the world. Moroccan cuisine is a mix of cultures, and one of its star dishes is the lovely Tagine. It can be made with chicken, lamb, fish or vegetables.
This is an excellent recipe by Claudia Roden, and from her book Arabesque. The tagine is the name of the dish the food is cooked in. The conic shape helps the steam flowing and cooking the interior of the dish giving the food its distinctive flavour. If we add the preserved lemons, one of the most essential ingredients the Moroccan cuisine, then the colour of the dish becomes amazing and the flavour explodes in your mouth. You must prepare the lemons a month in advance.
You can find the preserved lemons in selected stores, but they are so easy to prepare that it seems to me a waste of money, for they are quite expensive to buy and so much cheap to prepare at home. For this dish you only use the skin of the lemons. If you decide to go ahead and prepare the tagine, you only need to remember to preserve the lemons four weeks before.
5 or 6 big unwaxed lemons
rock salt ( quite a lot)
The juice of three lemons
Wash the lemons and cut them from the stem end into quarters almost through the base. Insert one tablespoon rock salt into each lemon, close it up and place in the sterilized jar. Repeat until the jar is filled, sprinkling 1 tablespoon salt between the layers. Pack the lemons into the jar as tightly as possible. Add a bay leaf an a few peppercorns is you want. Add the lemon juice and fill with slightly cool boiled water.
Seal the jar and store in a cool dark place for 4 weeks. Shake the jar daily for the first week in order to dissolve the salt. Once it´s opened store in the fridge. Before adding to the recipe, you need to rinse the lemon with water and discard the pulp.
Chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 onions finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 chicken cut into pieces (I used a poussin)
salt and black pepper
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Peel of 1 large preserved lemons
12-16 green olives
300mil chicken stock or water
In a tagine or a wide caserole dish, heat the oil and add the oinions, saute until they are soft then stir in the garlic, ginger and saffron.
Put in the chicken pieces season with salt and pepper and por in abut 300ml chicken stock or water. Simmer, covered. turning the pieces over a few times, and adding a little more water if it becomes too dry.
Stir in the lemon juice, the chopped coriander and parsley, the preserved lemon peel cut into strips and the olives. Cook uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes until the sauce is reduced and thick. Serve the chicken with the olives and lemon strips on top of the meat. You can serve it along with an almond and pistachio couscous. And don't be surprised when the chicken melts in your mouth.