Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon


Kelly Rossiter Photo
Kelly Rossiter

Difficulty Level Easy

I have been dutifully checking my preserved lemons and giving them a bit of a turn once or twice a week since I first pickled them. It's been roughly six weeks since I did it, and I thought I had been patient enough. I was having my family to dinner, so I wanted to try out a tagine on them. I made a chicken tagine for my mother-in-law, who expects meat wiith her meals, and a root vegetable tagine for my son and his girlfriend who are vegetarian.

I'm happy to say both were a big success and went well together. The chicken was really delicious. The vegetarians in the crowd scooped all the onions and olives out of the bottom along with the fabulous suce.

When I read the recipe for the chicken dish I couldn't believe that it would cook in 45 minutes in a traditional tagine. The whole point of using the clay cooker is that it is a long, slow process over a low heat, so that the meat stays moist and is incredibly tender. I doubled the time allotted in the recipe, and still the chicken breasts weren't done. In total it took two hours. If you were cooking the chicken in a pot using a higher heat, it would probably take closer to an hour.

I just put the chicken and all the ingredients together in a large bowl and stirred it so the chicken was entirely coated. Then I laid the sliced onions on the bottom of the tagine and placed the chicken on top, put the lid on the tagine and left it until I was checking for doneness at about 90 minutes. I didn't have any saffron, so I just left it out.

This recipe is from Gourmet's Adventures with Ruth, Season One


1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 (3 ½‑pound) chicken, cut into quarters
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium red onions, sliced lengthwise
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon lime juice
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided
2 preserved lemons, about 4 ounces each
1/2 cup purple Moroccan or Greek olives


  1. Lightly toast saffron in a dry small heavy skillet over moderately low heat, shaking skillet, until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer saffron to a small dish, let cool, then crumble with fingers.
  2. In a 12-inch tagine or shallow, covered casserole, or 12-inch heavy skillet, toss chicken with oil, onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric , lime juice, 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro,1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and reserved saffron. Arrange chicken pieces over onions in tagine.
  3. Cut preserved lemons into quarters and scrape pulp from peel. Coarsely chop pulp and sprinkle over chicken. Cut lemon peel into 1/2-inch cubes and reserve.
  4. Add 3/4 cup water to tagine and simmer, covered, 30 minutes, until chicken is almost cooked through. Check occasionally toward end of cooking time to be sure tagine is not dry, adding more water if necessary to keep meat from burning and sticking to pot. Add olives and simmer, covered, 10 minutes longer until chicken is cooked through. Just before serving, sprinkle with preserved lemon peel, remaining cilantro, and salt to taste.
This recipe appears in: Chicken
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