Chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons

I like a tagine. It is quick and simple to prepare, doesn’t require a lot of attention and is a tasty and satisfying dish with lovely North African flavours.

Ingredients

a decent pinch of saffron threads
250ml of chicken stock
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large or 2 small finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 crushed and chopped garlic cloves
2 large free-range chicken legs, skinned and jointed at the knee.
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
3 chopped preserved lemons
a handful of pitted green olives
a decent handful of chopped coriander leaves
a decent handful of chopped flatleaf parsley

Add the saffron threads to the stock to infuse. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a casserole or deep sauté pan with a lid, heat the olive oil and fry the onions until soft. Add the ginger, cumin and garlic and cook gently for a couple of minutes.

Add the chicken and stir to coat with the onion and spices. Sprinkle in the crushed peppercorns and add the lemons and saffron-infused stock.

Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook on a gentle heat for about one hour, or until the chicken is almost falling apart.

Add the olives and continue to simmer for another ten minutes. Add the chopped coriander and parsley just before serving.

Serve with rice, couscous, bulghur wheat or flatbreads and a green salad. I cooked some bulghur wheat with on the hob. This takes minutes. You just use a quantity of bulghur, twice the amount of hot water and a splash of olive oil. Bring to a simmer in a saucepan and cook until the water has been absorbed. I also served a salad on the side; a mixture of lamb’s lettuce, pea shoots and rocket, dressed with a simple oil and white wine vinegar vinaigrette.

I like a bit of heat with tagines, so I take some of the cooking liquid and mix it with some harissa paste (I like Le Phare du Cap Bon, which comes in a tube, like toothpaste and which is something I like to stock up with whenever I go to France)  before serving. I offer this separately so that it can be spooned over the dish to taste.

You can drink pretty much whatever takes your fancy with a dish like this, But I think that Mediterranean wines work best. A lightly-chilled full-bodied rosé would be good in warm weather but it isn’t that warm at the moment so I think a red would work better. Something fruity and rounded, with a bit of depth would work, maybe something from the Languedoc or the Rhône. Alternately,  perhaps Spain would be a decent place to look? There are so many options.

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