Chicken Tagine with Green Olives and Preserved Lemon

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon whole cloves

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for frying

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 large pinch saffron

1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) free-range chicken, cut into 10 pieces

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 preserved lemon, recipe follows

1/2 cup cracked green olives

1 cup chicken stock

Couscous with Apricots, recipe follows

Preserved Lemons:

6 to 8 lemons, unwaxed

2 cups kosher salt

Couscous with Apricots:

1 1/2 cups couscous

2 cups hot chicken stock

10 dried apricots, chopped

2 scallions, sliced thin, green parts only

1 orange, juiced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish


  1. In a skillet over medium heat, toast the cinnamon, peppercorns, cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, and cloves until they start to smoke. Remove from the heat and grind in a spice grinder.
  2. In a bowl large enough to accommodate the chicken, add the oil, spice mix, garlic, ginger, cilantro, bay leaves and saffron. Mix to a paste. Add chicken, rubbing the marinade over all the pieces. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and reserve marinade. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. In a tagine or large casserole over medium high heat add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Put in chicken pieces and lightly brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until just starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Rinse preserved lemon well. Scoop out flesh and discard; cut peel into strips and add to pan. Add reserved marinade, olives, and chicken stock. Cover tightly and cook over medium low heat for 30 to 35 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove bay leaf and discard. Taste juices and adjust seasoning. Place chicken on a warm platter. Spoon juices with the preserved lemon, olives, and onions over chicken and serve accompanied by Couscous with Apricots.

Preserved Lemons:

  1. Wash lemons well and dry them. Cut 4 lemons into quarters from the top, being careful not to cut all the way through. Pack salt generously into the cuts and place lemon into a sterilized glass pint jar. Continue procedure, packing the lemons into the jar as tightly as possible. Squeeze juice from remaining lemons. Add another 2 tablespoons of salt to the jar and top off with the lemon juice, make sure the lemons are completely covered. Close the jar with a non-metallic lid and set aside in a cool, dark place or the refrigerator for one month. Preserved lemons will keep for 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.
  2. Yield: about 4 lemons
  3. Prep Time: 20 minutes
  4. Cook Time: none
  5. Inactive Prep Time: 1 month

Couscous with Apricots:

  1. Put the couscous in a medium bowl; pour the hot stock over it and stir to combine. Cover and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Add the apricots, scallions, and orange juice; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine. Garnish with chopped parsley.
  2. Yield: 4 to 6 servings
  3. Prep Time: 10 minutes
  4. Inactive Prep Time: 15 minutes
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