OK, so this week we head off to one of my most loved holiday destinations, no not Dubai but Morocco. I’ve been here a couple of times many moons ago and although ended up on my own (fellow traveller had invalid passport and was sent back to Blighty!). Would love to take the wife over, but with those slithery things, she’s not too keen. I fell in love Morocco, with the landscape, the culture, the weather, the relaxed and calming Riyadhs, the bustling souks and more importantly the warmth of the people of Marrakesh, Essaouria, Casablanca and the Bedouin family in the Atlas Mountains where I ended up with my bike for one of the most amazing and exhilarating bike-rides I have ever been on; with a mad group of Germans & Americans. Mind you I was a little younger and fitter then! And of course the FOOD!
One would expect me to focus on tagines as my wife knows I love making them and enjoying eating them; after all that’s what Morocco is famous for – I promise I will share one in the future, but my most humbling poultry experience in the Atlas Mountains was a chicken dish made for us by a Bedouin family, who spoke no English, but their hospitality was more than 5 star! I honestly cried when I ate this as it was just divine and sitting around a camp fire in the cold on the mountains being fed by family who had very little but loved their life was highly emotional and a very humbling experience indeed.
This is the closest version I have found on the web and I have tweaked slightly to add a little depth and additional flavour. You can but preserved lemons from a decent Middle-eastern grocery store, don’t buy it from supermarkets.
Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives is a classic Moroccan dish. Salty, lemony and zesty, it’s one of my personal favourites and so easy to make, it’s a one-pot wonder! Saffron is optional, but a delicious, fragrant addition and I would therefore recommend you invest in some good quality saffron (asian grocery store).
This recipe is for a conventional stove top prepared in a heavy-bottomed pot (if you don’t have a tagine).
The trick to this method is two-fold: 1) Don’t add any water during the cooking; and 2) reduce the sauce until the onions are a thick mass.
This dish can also be made by slow-roasting in the oven. This method is useful when serving a large group of people with other dishes.
This recipe generously serves 4
1 whole chicken, skin removed, cut into pieces or use 8-10 Chicken thighs & drumsticks
1/3 cup vegetable oil (or a mix of vegetable oil and olive oil)
2 very large white onions sliced as thinly as possible
1 small handful of fresh coriander, leaves chopped – do not discard the stalks, finely chop them and put to side
1 small handful of fresh parsley, chopped – do not discard the stalks, finely chop them and put to side.
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp ground black pepper & Salt
1 tsp turmeric & chilli powder
1/2 tsp saffron threads, crumbled (divided – optional)
1 tsp unsalted butter
1 handful green or red olives, or mixed
1 or 2 preserved lemon, quartered and seeds removed
Cook the Chicken in your preferred cooking pot (if you don’t have a tagine, then use a heavy bottomed pot), place all the ingredients (including the finely chopped parsley and coriander stalks) except half of the saffron, olives, and lemon into the pot. Cover the pot, and cook the chicken over medium heat, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until the chicken is very tender and almost ready to fall off the bones (approximately one hour, but longer if using a free range chicken)
Keep the heat adjusted so that the chicken doesn’t scorch, and try not to add water as you cook; the chicken will braise in its own juices.
When the chicken is cooked, gently transfer to a plate and cover with tin foil. Reduce the Sauce and continue cooking the onion mixture and sauce over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquids evaporate and the onions form a blended mass which separates from the oils.
Add the preserved lemon, olives, the rest of the saffron, and a few tablespoons of water, and simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot, and heat through.
Place the chicken on a serving platter, pour the onion sauce over the top and sides, and garnish the top of the chicken with the quartered lemon and some olives. Serve with French Fries, crusty bread or flatbreads to soak up the sauce, if you want a break from cous-cous.
As a variation you could marinade the chicken a day in advance using garlic, lemon juice, ginger, some ground cumin and green cardomams and and add about a dozen split green cardomams during the cooking process.