Marrakshi chicken with preserved lemon

Sam is getting more adventurous with his cooking, and wanted to try a Moroccan-inspired dish. This is what he made – heavily influenced by the chicken tagine served at Leon.

Serves 4

  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic puree (or smoked garlic puree if you can find it)
  • 1 tablespoon ras-el-hanout spice mix
  • 8 small chicken joints, on the bone for preference (thighs are perfect for this, or you can buy a whole chicken and joint it yourself – there’ll be plenty of meat left over on the carcass to make  stew or soup)
  • a few strands of saffron (optional)
  • half a litre of chicken stock
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 4 large preserved lemons or 8 really small ones, enough for about 60g of rinds
  • 50g green olives, stoned and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • salt and black pepper

Peel and chop the onion into thin half-moon slices.  Heat the oil in a large saute pan or casserole dish, and saute the onion in the oil over a medium heat until it is soft but not coloured. Add the garlic puree and the ras-el-hanout, stir it about and enjoy the lovely aromas of the spices as they heat up.  Put in the chicken pieces – you should really take the skin off .  Then add the chickpeas, the saffron and the stock and let it come to a simmer. Leave it simmering for about ten minutes.

Take the preserved lemons and cut them in half. Scoop out the flesh and pips and discard them, then slice up the rinds and add them to the pan along with the chopped olives.  Keep the pan simmering for another ten minutes.

Finish off the dish by adding the creme fraiche. Stir it in and then turn up the heat a bit to reduce the liquid a little – this should take another ten to fifteen minutes.

Incidentally if you use big chicken breast fillets or larger joints, you will need to increase the cooking time to ensure the chicken is cooked through.  Chicken should never be pink!

When you are ready to serve, season it with salt and pepper (it may not need salt because of the stock and the olives) and garnish with some chopped coriander leaves (cilantro to our friends across the Atlantic).  This dish can be served with couscous or rice, and it goes well with dark green vegetables such as broccoli or wilted spinach.  You could also try a mixture of traditional Moroccan braised vegetables such as carrots, courgettes, squash, aubergine and green cabbage.


Moorish thing

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Not sure what to call this – it’s a sort of Spanish/Moroccan fusion thing, using up bits and pieces that were in the fridge and cupboard.

  • half a chorizo ring, skin removed and cut into small pieces
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped finely
  • half a jar of “magic peppers” – marinated red peppers that magically do not cause indigestion
  • one 400g tin of plum tomatoes
  • one 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 100g frozen spinach
  • half a teaspoon each cumin, coriander, chili powder and cinnamon
  • 250ml stock (I used mushroom but I imagine vegetable or chicken would work too)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 100g couscous

Put the chorizo bits and the chopped onion in a large frying pan and heat gently until the onions are soft.  Stir in the spices and let them heat through for a bit.  Then add the chopped magic peppers, the tomatoes and the chickpeas, with the hot stock.  Add in the frozen spinach and let it all bubble together for about 20 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste (shouldn’t need any salt because of the stock and the chorizo).  Cook the couscous according to the packet (usually adding a double quantity of boiling water and leaving it to stand for 5 minutes) and serve the Moorish thing on top of the couscous.