Moroccan Chicken Tagine with preserved lemon and olives

One-pot Moroccan stew made with succulent chicken legs slowly cooked in aromatic spices. Bursting with moreish flavours from the preserved lemon and olives.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

A tagines is a Moroccan stew in which meat, poultry or fish is cooked slowly in a special earthenware pot that has a shallow, circular bottom and a tight-fitting conical lid. When the cooking vapours evaporate, they condense at the top of the cone and drip back down onto the food. This allows the meat to be cooked using much less liquid – a practical consideration in drier climates where water supplies are limited. It also concentrates the flavours in the sauce. French-style stews like Beef Bourguignon depend on the meat being more-or-less submerged in the cooking liquid, which is then reduced at the end through rapid boiling. With this in mind, resist the temptation to add more water to the pot. The trapped steam will cook the chicken, and more water will be released from the chicken pieces as they cook.

Tips & Tricks

  • Remove the skin from the chicken – skin is kept on when cooking with dry heat, such as roasting or grilling, as it adds texture, flavour and moistness (by crisping, browning, and trapping juices). When chicken is cooked in a braising liquid, the skin just goes soggy and flabby.
  • Use a large pan – the chicken pieces needs to be arranged in a single layer to cook through
  • Do not add more water – this will result in a very thin sauce and dilute the flavours
cooking time
Moroccan Chicken Tagine with preserved lemon and olives


  • 1 preserved lemon (replace with juice and finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon if you cannot find)
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 red onion (130g), halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Ras El Hanout spice mix (replace with 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon if you cannot find)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • pinch of saffron strands, crumbled with your fingers or ground with a pestle and mortar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 chicken thighs and 4 chicken drumsticks, skinned (grasp the skin tightly and pull off in one piece)
  • 6 large pitted green olives, sliced into rounds

to serve:

  • 2 tablespoons flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat, until lightly browned
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander leaves


  1. Prepare the preserved lemon. Scrape away and discard the pulp from the preserved lemon, so you’re left with just the rind. Rinse to remove any excess salt. Slice into thin ribbons, then set aside until needed.
  2. Fry the aromatics and spices. Heat the cooking oil over a medium heat in a large, heavy-based casserole / deep-sided saucepan that measures at least 24 cm / 9.5 inches in diameter. Add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes, until softened but not brown (you could also finely chop and add the parsley and coriander stalks). Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute. Add the ras el hanout and fry for 30 seconds – 1 minute, until it releases a fragrant aroma. Stir constantly to stop it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Simmer the tagine. Quickly pour in the water to stop the spices from burning. Add the preserved lemon, saffron and black pepper, and stir until blended. Sit the chicken pieces on top, arranged in a single layer. The cooking liquid will only come about halfway up the chicken. Resist the temptation to top up with more liquid (the trapped cooking vapours will cook the chicken, and more water will be released from the chicken pieces as they cook).
  4. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low. Leave to cook at a steady simmer for 1 hour, flipping over the chicken pieces after 40 minutes. After 1 hour, remove the lid. Cook for a further 15 minutes to reduce the cooking liquid.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the olives. Transfer to plates and scatter over the flaked almonds and chopped herbs.




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