What to do with preserved lemons, homemade or otherwise? Make a Moroccan chicken tagine, of course.
Perhaps the most predictable dish one can make with preserved lemons but honestly, it’s so tasty and satisfying, who wouldn’t want to enjoy it? When I made my own quick preserved lemons a few weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to try them in this dish.
Juicy, melt in the mouth chicken, briny, plump olives and zingy preserved lemons providing acidity and a heady aroma, sweetness from the honey and warm spiciness from the fresh ginger, the coriander and the cinnamon.
I accompanied it with couscous topped with almonds that I sautéed in butter and the pairing was absolutely gorgeous. The nutty sweetness of the butter and the crisp texture of the almonds complemented the chicken in a perfect way.
Moroccan chicken, olive and preserved lemon tagine with almond couscous
I used a traditional Moroccan tagine/tajine earthenware pot to make this dish; if you don’t have one, you can use a Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed baking pan.
I used my homemade quick preserved lemons but I have made this dish many times in the past using the traditional preserved lemons. It works great with both. The only difference is that the quick preserved lemons are a bit more sour and acidic than the traditional whole preserved lemons. Both, however, provide that aromatic, fresh lemon flavor that you want.
I prefer using bone-in chicken thighs because cooking any kind of meat on the bone adds more flavor to a dish, but you can certainly use boneless.
Yield: 4 servings
for the chicken tagine
for the marinade
8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
1 onion (about 150 g), grated or processed in a small food processor
3 garlic cloves, mashed
25 g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
A large handful (about 20 g) of flat-leaf parsley (stalks and leaves)
A pinch of saffron strands
1 Tbsp runny honey (I used Greek wild thyme honey)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp ground coriander
Juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed
2 Tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt (I always use sea salt in my cooking)
2 Tbsp olive oil
40 g quick-preserved lemon rind (or the rind of 2 traditional preserved lemons), cut into thin strips
20 Kalamata olives with pits (about 100 g)
½ tsp Greek dried oregano, plus extra for sprinkling on top
for the almond couscous
25 g unsalted butter
3 Tbsp blanched, split almonds
2 cups couscous
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
Special equipment: small food processor, plastic wrap, Moroccan tagine/tajine pot (or Dutch oven or other large heavy-bottomed baking pan), sieve
for the chicken tagine
Make the marinade by adding in a small bowl the onion, garlic, ginger, parsley, saffron, honey, cinnamon, coriander, lemon juice, 2 Tbsp olive oil, pepper and salt and mixing well.
In a baking dish, add the chicken thighs in one layer and pour over the marinade. Massage the chicken so the marinade coats them evenly and cover the dish with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Take the chicken out of the fridge and leave to come to room temperature, for about 45 minutes.
Add 2 Tbsp olive oil in the tagine (or large, heave-bottomed baking pan) and place over a medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the chicken thighs to the pan (without the marinade juices) and brown them on all sides. Then, pour over the marinade that’s left in the dish and add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the chicken thighs. Bring to the boil and turn heat down to low. Cover the tagine (or baking pan) with the lid and simmer the chicken for about 45 minutes, turning the chicken from time to time.
Add the preserved lemon, the olives and ½ tsp dried oregano to the tagine, cover and simmer for further 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is very tender.
Have a taste and add salt and pepper if needed and sprinkle with a little extra dried oregano.
Serve with the almond couscous.
for the couscous
In the meantime, prepare the couscous.
Heat the butter in a small frying pan over medium heat. Once it melts and starts to foam, add the almonds and stir continuously with a wooden spatula until they take on a golden color, being careful not to burn them because they will turn bitter.
Strain the almonds in a sieve and keep the butter in a bowl.
Add the couscous in a medium-sized bowl and pour the butter from the almonds over it.
In a small saucepan, add the water and place over high heat. When it comes to the boil, pour it over the couscous, add the salt, stir with a spoon and tightly cover the bowl immediately with a piece of plastic wrap. Leave it like that for about 10 minutes or until it has soaked the water. Then uncover it, taste it, and if it seems a bit hard, cover and leave it for a few more minutes.
When ready, remove and discard the plastic wrap and fluff the couscous with a fork. Check the seasoning and add more salt if needed.
Serve with the almonds scattered on top of the couscous.