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Chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons (D'jaj m'chermel)

Morocco is known for its variety of tagines, a lovely meaty stew that usually, but not always, contains dried fruits. These slow-cooked stews are a perfect balance of flavours and allow the local chefs, and mothers at home, to show off their ingenuity and skills in the kitchen.

There are essentially 4 types of tagines: m'qalli is flavoured with saffron and ginger, m'hammar, flavoured with cumin and paprika, k'dra, seasoned with saffron, white pepper and lots of onions, and, m'chermel, flavoured with herbs and other seasonings.

This tagine is a flavour bomb. The abundance of herbs, olives, and preserved lemon make the sauce pop with flavour. The meat is fall-off-the-bone-tender and is infused with tart lemon aromatics. With the couscous, it made for a delicate and wonderful meal.

This cookbook is so much more than a collection of recipes, but a history of a culture and its contribution to the cuisines of the world. The author has travelled extensively to research this cookbook, and this is evident in the introduction to the book and each recipe. Filled with historical notes and tidbits of information, I can sit and read this cookbook as a novel.

For more recipes from the amazing cookbook, click here.


1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon ginger paste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon paprika or chilli powder

A good pinch saffron

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Salt, to taste

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

2 onions, finely chopped

1/4 bunch of parsley, minced

1/4 bunch of cilantro, minced

1 1-inch cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

4 cups water

Juice of 1/2-1 lime or lemon

1 large preserved lemon, seeded and finely chopped

1/2 cup green or Kalamata olives, or both

1 packet, Couscous

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup raisins

Parsley, minced

Salt, to taste

Mix the garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika, saffron, pepper and some salt and mix well. Rub the chicken pieces with the mix and allow to marinate for 1 hour at room /temperature.

Add the chicken to a pot, one large enough for the whole tagine, and add the onions, parsley, cilantro, cinnamon, olive oil, butter, more salt, and water. Bring to a boil and simmer open gently for 60 minutes, till the chicken is very tender. The liquids should reduce and you should be left with a thick sauce. You can make the tagine up to this stage and store it in the fridge for a maximum of 24 hours.

To finish the dish, add the lime juice, preserved lemons, and olives and mix in well. Gently simmer the dish for 10 minutes. Turn the dish out into a bowl and serve with couscous or bread.

For the couscous, add the oil to a large wide pan and fry the raisins and sautè for 1 minute. Add the couscous and mix in. Add the quantity of water recommended by the manufacturer, season with salt, and mix in well. Cover and allow to steam off the stove for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork mixing in the fresh parsley. Serve hot.

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