Easy Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives:
At this time of year I love spicy food, warming stews and rich, deep flavours. A Tagine is a Morroccan dish that usually involves meat or fish and some kind of fruit. It seems particularly appropriate to make a chicken and preserved lemon tagine with olives – It’s the sort of recipe that with the aid of some Gourmet Garden samples, some chicken, an onion and a few ingredients you already have in your store cupboard, will produce impressive results that belie the effort involved.
The set of herbs in the photo were sent to me with the challenge to create a dish that showcases how useful these little tubes can be. Now, during the summer, my windowsill is usually full of pots of fresh herbs. But, for some reason, my fresh coriander never lasts long, and at this time of year nothing looks particularly healthy anyway. So herbs and spices in a tube that you can keep in the fridge and use when you need them, but still get a really fresh flavour, are a great idea.
This Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons is a dish you shouldn’t try to hurry too much. And, it’s best made with chicken thighs, which have the advantage of being relatively cheap too, to produce really tender moist meat. If you want to make a quicker version, then by all means use chicken breasts but try to buy the sort with skin on and some bone still left. By using chicken breast, you can cut the marinade time down to around 30 minutes and you shouldn’t need to cook the tagine for more than half an hour without the lemon and olives and then half an hour to finish off. If you don’t have a tagine, you can, of course, make this dish in a normal casserole, but the principle of the tagine is that it will part casserole and part-steam your dish, making the meat particularly tender. And, preserved lemons are quite unlike the fresh sort – it’s well worth keeping a jar in the cupboard if you like this kind of recipe.
My chicken tagine recipe is perhaps rather spicier than some versions but otherwise quite a classic dish. I use a chermoula to marinade the meat – a mixture of herbs and spices with a little olive oil and preserved lemon.
The same chermoula mix works well with baked fish and can also be used as a rather fabulous barbeque marinade. In winter, the fresh herbs are hard to get hold of and I have never liked chopping up chilli, garlic and ginger – I have a bad tendency to rub my eyes afterwards and with contact lenses that’s not a great idea. And, while it looks complicated, the Gourmet Garden herbs and spices make the chermoula very quick to put together though you DO need to be patient and allow the mixture to marinade for at least half an hour, or if possible a few hours. Having said that, this dish can be made in advance and it freezes very well.
If you want to use this for the 5-2 diet, then use half the amount of olive oil in the chermoula and replace the potatoes with carrots and celery. It’s not quite as hearty, but the calorie count will then be around 350 per portion, assuming you don’t eat the chicken skin;)