Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives (Tagine Djaj Bi Zaytoun Wal Hamid)
This is the best-known Moroccan chicken dish. It was the only one, apart from appetizers, served during an evening of Arab poetry and story-telling, accompanied by musicians, that I attended in a Paris restaurant. The olives do not have to be stoned. If you find them too salty, soak them in 2 changes of water for up to an hour.
|3 tbsp||extra virgin olive oil|
|2||onions, grated or chopped very finely|
|2-3||garlic cloves, crushed|
|½ tsp||crushed saffron threads or saffron powder|
|¼-½ tsp||ground ginger|
|salt and black pepper|
|Juice of ½||lemon|
|2 tbsp||chopped coriander|
|2 tbsp||chopped parsley|
|Peel of 1 large or 2 small||preserved lemons|
|12-16||green or violet olives (see above)|
You will need a wide casserole or heavy-bottomed pan that can hold all the chicken pieces in one layer.
In a wide casserole or heavy-bottomed pan that can hold all the chicken pieces in one layer, heat the oil and put in the onions. Sauté, stirring over low heat, until they soften, then stir in the garlic, saffron and ginger.
Put in the chicken pieces, season with salt and pepper, and pour in about 300ml water. Simmer, covered, turning the pieces over a few times and adding a little more water if it becomes too dry. Lift out the breasts after about 20 minutes and put them to one side. Continue to cook the remaining pieces for another 25 minutes or so, after which time return the breasts to the pan.
Stir into the sauce the lemon juice, the chopped coriander and parsley, the preserved lemon peel cut into quarters or strips, and the olives. Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes, until the reduced sauce is thick and unctuous. If there is too much liquid, lift out the chicken pieces and keep them on one side while you reduce the sauce further, then return the chicken to the pan and heat through.
Present the chicken on a serving dish with the olives and lemon peel on top of the meat.