Moroccan chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives

Moroccan chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives
Something strange happened to our chilli plant. It went on holiday to my parents’ house for two weeks (while we holidayed in France for two weeks), and while sunning itself in their conservatory our humble little green jalapeños turned red! We bought the plant early last summer and had a generous crop of mild, but delicious jalapeño peppers for months. It stopped flowering over winter, but came back with gusto this summer and we began to use the green chillies again. I don’t know if the plant needed time to mature, or if it was the intense sun and warmth of the conservatory, but either way we returned to a glamorous plant bejewelled with fiery red chillies…
Homegrown chilli plant
We’ve used some of the red chillies in stir-fries and curries, or fried them with garlic and kale for a simple side dish, but we used the final one (for now) to flavour this gorgeous chicken tagine. This is an amalgamation of a few different tagine recipes, and is also inspired by a tagine I was served by friends and one we had in our riad in Marrakech last November. It combines sweet honey, sharp preserved lemons, hot chilli and salty olives with succulent chicken legs and, with the essential addition of ras el hanout (a North African blend of spices), feels like an exotic treat. It’s a great dish for serving a large group, but the chicken is also perfect as leftovers for lunch salads or sandwiches during the week. My favourite bit is the plentiful gravy that surrounds the chicken legs by the end of cooking, and in my opinion requires a great hunk of crusty bread for dipping.

One year ago:
Fennel and courgette salad (using red chilli, funnily enough!)
Spanish prawns and chorizo
Ingredients for Moroccan chicken tagine
Ingredients (serves 4-5)
5 chicken legs (skin on)
4 small cloves of garlic, crushed
Thumb-size piece of ginger, grated
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
1 generous tsp ras el hanout
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
5 tbsp olive oil
2 small white onions
1 red chilli
1 medium tomato
7 half slices of preserved lemons
15 green olives
450ml water

1. Place the chicken in a large bowl or tub (or the container it came in!) and add the marinade ingredients (garlic, ginger, honey, cumin, turmeric, ras el hanout, salt, pepper and olive oil).
Adding the marinade ingredients to the chiken legs
Mix very well so all the chicken is coated and then cover and set aside to marinade at room temperature for as long as you can – at least an hour is ideal, but you can prepare as far in advance as the night before (in this case put the chicken in the fridge overnight but remember to take it out a few hours before cooking so it can come back to room temperature).
Marinading the chicken legs for Moroccan tagine

2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Thinly slice the onions and place at the bottom of your tagine.
Thinly sliced white onions for Moroccan chicken tagine
3. Prepare the chilli and tomato – deseed both and thinly slice.
Finely sliced tomato and red chilli
4. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and brown the chicken legs on both sides over a medium heat. You might need to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan. Don’t worry if the skin looks a bit black – this is the sugar in the honey caramelising – just don’t actually burn the flesh!
Browning the marinated chicken legs for the tagine
5. Arrange the chicken legs on top of the sliced onions in the tagine.
Arranging the chicken legs in the tagine
6. Scatter over the chilli, tomato, lemons and olives and pour in the water.
Adding other ingredients to the Moroccan chicken tagine 1
Adding other ingredients to the Moroccan chicken tagine 2
7. Place the lid on the tagine and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
Moroccan chicken tagine served with olive bread and green herb salad
Take the tagine straight to the table for dramatic effect, and serve with fresh, crusty bread or a big bowl of couscous, and a herby green salad.
Moroccan chicken tagine for Sunday dinner

Pad Thai

Homemade chicken Pad Thai
I love Thai food. I find it’s the kind of food that you get an instant, and very strong, craving for and you just won’t be satisfied until you’ve had jasmine rice topped with a luscious green curry or sticky satay skewers. One of my absolute favourite Thai dishes is Pad Thai, a noodle dish that perfectly combines sweet, salty and sour flavours. I had one of these Thai cravings a few weekends ago, coinciding with Ross trying to shake the tail end of a cold and hankering after some spice so that he could actually taste something. Pad Thai seemed like the perfect answer to both our needs, as you can customise your own bowl after cooking with extra chilli (for Ross) or whatever other flavour you’re craving on that day, or even in that mouthful. In a restaurant I would usually go for prawn Pad Thai, and if you’re the same then just substitute the chicken with a couple of hundred grams of raw prawns and reduce the cooking time slightly. Of course you could also make this a vegetarian dish by swapping the meat for tofu, or lots of colourful veggies.

As with a lot of Asian cuisine, I find it’s easiest to prepare everything before you begin cooking. It’s frantic enough in the last few minutes as it is, and life will be so much easier if all the ingredients are lying out, prepared and ready to be tossed in a hot pan. I know it seems like a lot of effort, but trust me it will be well worth it.
Ingredients for chicken Pad Thai
Ingredients (serves 2)
1-2 chicken breasts
200g rice noodles
2 limes, 1 cut into wedges for serving
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
¼ tsp chilli flakes, plus extra to serve
1 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tsp soy sauce
2 pak choi
4 spring onions
Large bunch of coriander
1 egg
2-3 tbsp salted peanuts
1 tbsp sesame oil, or vegetable oil such as sunflower or groundnut
150g beansprouts

1. Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces.
Chicken chopped for homemade Pad Thai
2. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Mine required five minutes in boiling water, a plunge into cold water and then drained, but other types will vary.
Cooked rice noodles prepared for Pad Thai
3. Mix the juice of one of the limes with the fish sauce, chilli flakes, tamarind paste and soy sauce and set aside for later.
Sauce for homemade chicken Pad Thai
4. Slice the spring onions and pak choi and finely chop the coriander, including the stalks. Reserve a few nice coriander leaves for a garnish if you’re feeling fancy.
Pak choi, spring onions and coriander chopped for a homemade chicken Pad Thai
5. Gently beat the egg and set aside.
Beaten egg for homemade chicken Pad Thai
6. Crush the peanuts in a mortar and pestle, or in a plastic bag using a rolling pin. Go for a mix of textures, with some very fine and some chunky pieces.
Crushed salted peanuts to top Pad Thai
7. Heat the sesame oil in a wok until very hot – the trick here is to have a screaming hot wok to cook in. Add the chicken and brown on all sides.
Chicken fried in sesame oil for chicken Pad Thai
8. Add the spring onion and pak choi and cook for 2 minutes.
Stir-frying chicken Pad Thai
At this point things are getting pretty heated in the kitchen so get someone to open a cold one of these for you…
Corona with lime
…you deserve it.

9. Push the ingredients to one side of the wok and pour in the beaten egg. Allow to cook for about 30 seconds and then break into pieces and toss together with the rest of the stir fry.
Adding the egg to the Pad Thai
9. Add the beansprouts, noodles and sauce and mix thoroughly. Cook for 2-3 more minutes and turn off the heat. Mix through the coriander.
Homemade chicken Pad Thai
10. Serve the Pad Thai in bowls topped with a spoonful of chopped peanuts and the saved coriander leaves.
Homemade chicken Pad Thai served with prawn crackers and Corona
A plate of optional extras (lime wedges, peanuts and chilli flakes) and a bottle of soy sauce on the table will let everyone enjoy their Pad Thai exactly to their own liking.
Homemade chicken Pad Thai
And there we go: cravings satisfied.

Until it comes to writing up the recipe…aaaaand now they’re back…