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Monday, 25 July 2011

Chicken & Green Olive Tagine, Preserved Lemons and a SALUT to Moroccan People

Serves 4  | Easy
This is a very distinctly flavoured dish. The secret is in the
prepared lemons. Make sure to get the best flavoured
prepared lemons available

Morocco is magical! From the cities, to the open markets, to the people, the traditions and best of all the FOOD! Amazing, melt in your mouth tagines with many layers of flavour are signature traits of Moroccan cuisine. The depths to which flavours go is unmatched! You bite into the food and immediately get a sense of "Oh! This is good! This is very good!" From the spicy, sweet, to sour hints all mixed in a rich and thickened sauce... These people know good food.

Olives & Preserved lemons are
the origin of flavour in this dish
The first time I tried Chicken & Green Olives Tagine, I found the flavours to be very distinct. I had never had food with such flavour combination, it was surprisingly unusual to me! But oh, very good. When I came to make this recipe for the first time, I just went and purchased preserved lemons from the supermarket, oblivious to the quality. I simply asked for Moroccan preserved lemons. Thing is, the distinctive flavour of this dish is really coming from these lemons. If the initial flavour of the preserved lemons is not that good, the whole dish will be 'not that good'. Therefore, I totally recommend you make your own preserved lemons, otherwise, make sure to buy the best quality out there. Don't be afraid to ask for a taster!
Tagine pot
This dish is best prepared with chicken on the bone with skin intact. With that in mind, I have made it here with boneless chicken breasts to see if it works well. It did, it was good, however not as rich in flavour as that made with chicken pieces on the bone.
Tagine is essentially a dish that is prepared in the tagine pot. This pot enables the accumulation of steam which slowly cooks tagines to perfection. The end result is always a super moist, condensely flavoured dish. I have cooked this in a regular saucepan to see how it comes out. For those who do not own a tagine pot, this works! However the flavours are not the same. The tagine pot produces more intensified flavours, a more tender meat and a more thickened sauce that is wholesome in flavour. Therefore, cook this in a tagine pot, and make the investment as you will love cooking tagines!

A final note on flavour enhancement, I felt that the overall dish lacked something! My hubby, who is my most trusted flavour consultant and an acclaimed cook himself, suggested that a bite from some toasted nuts will add to the texture and flavour, as well as a sprinkle of fried onions, which will counteract the acidity and balance the over all flavour. Right enough, the addition of those totally transformed this dish into a wholesome, well rounded texture and flavour. Feel free to add these and see for yourself. Yet for the purist this recipe is what the original recipe suggests, without any added extras.

Here is how it goes
You Need
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 1/2 cups water
1 preserved lemon, sliced
juice of 1/2 lemon
150g green olives, stoned
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground paprika
a pinch of saffron threads
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Salt & Black pepper to taste

In a frying plan, brown the chicken pieces in a little olive oil. Just slightly brown them all around. Drain and set aside.

warming the spices, garlic and lemon in oil, releases their aromas

Stir fry the crushed garlic and spices in olive oil, but do not brown. This warms up the spices allowing them to release their aromas. Add the sliced preserved lemon and stir to coat with spiced oil mixture. Add the browned chicken pieces and coat with oil mixture. Add the water, season with salt and bring to a slow boil. Skim any foam from the surface. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

This recipe was made in a regular sauce pan using chicken breasts.
It works, but better flavours come from using the right pot and chicken on the bone.

At this point, you can either remove the chicken, and gently remove the bones without breaking the chicken meat apart, then return it to the pan. Or you can keep the chicken on the bone if desired. Add the olives and the lemon juice and simmer for 5 minutes to incorporate the flavours.

Serve warm alongside some Couscous or slices of bread.

Ramadan Kareem!

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Love, Dima :)

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