This is one of my favourite recipes at this time of year. This is a time of transition and although it seems warmer and sunnier in the day, I find I still want to enjoy a hot meal in the evening. I’m not quite ready yet for salad for supper. This is a lovely, light and flavoursome dish. It’s really easy to make and seems to be extremely popular with everyone who tries it.
Fruit and meat are traditionally combined in a tagine, which is a North African dish, named after the conically-shaped lidded ceramic cooking dish, which is used to cook the ingredients to make a tagine. Traditionally, tagines were placed over hot coals to cook the contents, but are now mostly placed in an oven to bake. The conical lid is designed to create a sealed environment, which will catch condensation created inside and return it to the dish. The result is succulent, meltingly soft meat and fragrant, tender vegetables.
Tagines are often cooked for hours, but this is a quick go-to recipe for a weeknight meal. Chicken is often paired with preserved lemons when cooked in this way, and I just love to use homemade preserved lemons in my tagines. The flavour is so much more fruity and punchy than shop bought lemons.
Did you know that preserved lemons are actually fermented? Lemons are coated in salt and fermented by the presence of lactic acid in a process that takes up to four weeks. Their skins soften and their flavour mellows. They can be rinsed before using, to tone down their saltiness, or used as they are, which is how I do it. I have a superb recipe for homemade preserved lemons in my new book, which is out in August, so watch this space for more information.
In the meantime, here is my favourite chicken tagine recipe, for you to enjoy at home.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 skinless chicken breasts, sliced around 7mm thick
- 2 small onions, sliced into thin slivers
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 4cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
- Large pinch saffron, softened in 1 tbsp hot water
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 homemade preserved lemons, thinly sliced, or 6 small shop bought preserved lemons, halved
- 3 tbsp green olives
- 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 200ml chicken stock
- 1 handful each or fresh flat leaf parsley and coriander, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Set your tagine dish aside. If you don't have one, you can use a lidded oven-proof casserole dish.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the chicken and stir fry until lightly browned. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and stir fry for around 5 minutes over a moderate heat, until fragrant.
- Add the saffron, cinnamon, lemon juice, preserved lemons, olives, chick peas and stock and stir well. Bring to a simmer and transfer the contents of the pan to the tagine or casserole. Place the lid on and bake for 45 minutes until the chicken is tender. If you prefer a slightly less liquid tagine, remove the lid and continue to bake the tagine for a further 10 minutes.
- Serve hot, topped with fresh parsley and coriander with some steaming couscous. It is particularly delicious eaten in the garden on a warm evening.