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Chicken tagine with olives, chickpeas and pine nuts

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

Every one that travels to Morocco or dines in a Moroccan restaurant has to try a tagine, to tick a box, usually. Most tagines are hastily put together for tourists that lack flavor and depth. However, a really good tajine is complex with flavors that are sweet, nutty and filled with spices and herbs. In the hands of a good chef, a tagine is transformed to a subliminal dish that is delicate, finely balanced and delicious. My interest in this dish was peeked by how this tagine is changed subtly by the chef into something unique. The use of traditional ingredients like paprika, pine nuts and sweet red peppers are combined with Mexican chipotle chilies. This combination makes this tagine a wonderful dish. I painted this with herbed couscous.

Although this recipe is made with chicken, you can easily leave the meat out for a vegetarian or vegan version. You can also substitute paneer, a starch like sweet potatoes or yams and pumpkins instead.

This is one of those cookbooks that I looked at for a long time and finally decided to get. It is a wonderful cookbook filled with flavors from across the globe. Each recipe turns out superb, but be prepared to get lots of new ingredients on your shelf and spend some time in the kitchen. I highly recommend this book for those who are looking for those different flavors.

For more delicious recipes from this cookbook click here.


1 dried chipotle chile, halved if desired

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, excess fat removed, cut in 6 pieces

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

2 lemons

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick

2 whole cloves

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 onions, minced fine

4 garlic cloves, smashed

1 tablespoon ginger paste

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 red or green bell peppers, cored, seeds and ribs removed, and diced

2 cups cooked chickpeas or canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 14.5-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, preferably Muir Glen brand, with their juice, or any other canNed stewed or diced tomatoes

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup pitted drained kalamata or Niçoise olives packed in oil preferred, or brined

3 thyme sprigs, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 cup water, or as needed

1 tablespoon mint, minced

Steamed couscous for serving

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

4 tablespoons mix of mint and cilantro, minced

To prepare the chipotle chile, cut in half and soak in hot water for a minimum of 30 minutes, or overnight. Remove the chile and take out the seeds, ribs and stem. Puree the chile in the liquid that it was soaked in to make a smooth paste. Set aside.

NOTE: If your fingers are sensitive to chilies, please wear gloves.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature.

Remove the zest from the lemons using a vegetable peeler and juice them. Set the zest and juice aside.

In a flameproof tagine, a large stew pot, or a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the cinnamon stick and cloves and cook, stirring, until they are fragrant and little bubbles form around the spices, about 1 minute. Add the cumin seeds and cook for 30 seconds. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the paprika and turmeric and cook for 1 minute.

Add the peppers and sauté for another 10 minutes till the peppers are cooked and soft. Add the chile pure and cook till the liquid has dried up and the sauce has thickened., resembling a nice thick pasta sauce.

Add the chicken, chickpeas, tomatoes, raisins, pine nuts, olives, the reserved lemon zest and juice, thyme, and bay leaves, stir, and cook for 5 minutes. Mix the sauce throughly to coat the chicken and seal in the flavors.

Add the water, cover, mix well and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Uncover the pot. The consistency should be that of a thick stew; add up to another 1 cup water if the mixture is very dry. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Remove the cinnamon stick, cloves, , thyme sprigs, and bay leaves, if desired, I tend to leave them in. Top with the fresh mint as a garnish for serving.

To make the couscous, steam as per the instructions on the box, usually a 1:1 ratio of couscous and boiling water. add the salt and olive oil and seal with the lid. After the alloted time, open the couscous and add the minced herbs and fluff the couscous well to mix them in.

Serve the tagine with the couscous.

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