Archive for the ‘Morocco’ Category

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Prunes and Almonds

The nights are getting cool again, which inspires me to think about cooking in my tagine. (You could also use a heavy ceramic-coated cast iron baking dish with a lid, if you don’t have a tagine.) I have Paula Wolfert’s beautiful cookbook, The Food of Morocco (2011), and this recipe, “Chicken Tagine with Prune and Almonds in the Style of the Rif Mountains,” jumped out at me as straightforward, gluten-free, and calling for ingredients I mostly had on hand already.

Here’s the ingredients list first, and then the recipe method with my comments and photos.


– 1 3-1/4 pound chicken, preferably organic and air-chilled. (I used 4 chicken thighs)
– coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 2 teaspoons ground cumin, preferably Moroccan, or more to taste
– 12 ounces moist prunes, pitted
– 2-3 teaspoons ground Ceylon cinnamon (I used 2 teaspoons)
– 2 large yellow onions, halved and sliced lengthwise (I used 1 very large onion, since I used less chicken than it called for)
– 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
– 1 teaspoon ground ginger
– 1 cup blanched whole almonds (I used blanched slivered almonds, skinless)
– vegetable oil for frying
– teff, for serving (traditionally would probably be couscous, but I needed a gluten-free option)
(and I made a kale and garlic side dish)


1. Rinse the chicken and pat dry, trim away excess fat. Cut off the wings and legs, leaving the breast in one piece. (Again, I just used thighs.) Rub all the pieces with the salt, pepper, and the cumin. (I used a very coarse sea salt, and rubbed it under the skin as well as on top of the skin.) Let stand 1 hour. (I didn’t let it stand quite the full hour, more like 35 minutes, still tasted wonderful.)

The chicken rubbed with spices

Onions ready to go

2. Meanwhile, cover the prunes with cold water in a small saucepan and add the cinnamon. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside.

3. Place the onions in a wide, shallow casserole dish (I used my tagine), with the turmeric, ginger, salt and pepper to taste, and 1/4 cup water, cover, and steam for 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, brown the almonds in 4 or 5 T oil in a large skillet. (I used slivered almonds. Stir constantly over medium heat until they turn a very light brown color.) Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Boiling the prunes with cinnamon

Toasting the almonds

5. Brown the chicken on all sides in the same oil (about 5 minutes per side) and then transfer to the steamed onions. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper (this keeps the liquid from escaping as steam out the hole in the lid of the tagine) and cook over low heat for 1-1/4 hours. (Note, my onions were starting to get dry so I added another almost 1/4 cup of water with the chicken, but in hindsight I would not add water – the parchment paper kept it moist. I ended up taking out the parchment paper for the last 20 minutes to let some of the sauce evaporate. I also turned the chicken pieces over once, about an hour in to the cooking.)

The onions post-steaming

Browning the chicken

6. Discard the parchment paper. Add the cooked prunes to the casserole and bring to a boil. (I note that the recipe did not specify, if I was to add the cinnamon water along with the cooked prunes. I assumed yes, but did not add quite all the cinnamon water since my tagine was already a bit over-juicy. But next time I think I would add it all. It was about 1/2 cup of liquid, and thick with cinnamon.)

Chicken on top of the onions, ready to add the prunes and then start steaming

The boiled prunes, with some of the cinnamon water

Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Then the recipe said to remove the chicken to a serving platter, breast in the middle, and arrange the legs and wings all around, and then cover with the sauce and sprinkle with the almonds and serve at one. I just sprinkled the almonds into the tagine and served that way.

7. I cooked up 1/2 cup teff (in 2 cups lightly salted boiling water), for half an hour, is a very good accompaniment to dishes like this with delicious sauces, and is gluten-free. Very small grained, light flavor, creamy texture. I also stir fried some kale on the side – I cooked garlic in oil, added the already-boiled kale, stirred for a few minutes, and then topped with sea salt and some red pepper flakes.

The tagine ready for serving

Final plate, with teff and kale

The four thighs could serve 4 people if you have hearty servings of the grain to go under it, and a vegetable on the side. There was just the two of us eating so we had some leftovers for lunch the next day.

Chicken Tagine with Dried Apricots

I recently cooked my first recipe from Paula Wolfert’s beautiful new cookbook, The Food of Morocco. I made the “Chicken Tagine with Dried Apricots and Pine Nuts” (or sesame seeds). I had most of the ingredients on hand already, and the tagine I bought last year. The full recipe (slightly modified) is at the end of the post.

First, I prepped ingredients, while enjoying my white wine aperitif. I love any excuse to use my Italian marble mortar, a birthday gift from years ago. The saffron water was a gorgeous color.

Jillian assembling ingredients

Love the colorful ingredients

I put together the marinade and rubbed it on the chicken, and let it sit while I cut the onions and then cooked them until soft in the tagine.

Marinating the chicken

Raw onion in the tagine

After the onions were very soft, I browned the chicken and added herbs and a little hot water to the tagine, and simmered, covered.

Adding the chicken to the onions

Added some cilantro and a bit of liquid

While the chicken cooked in the tagine, I made the sauce, with fresh orange juice, apricots, cinnamon, sugar – it cooked on low about 30 minutes, until reduced. Then I added the sauce to the tagine, once the chicken was cooked through, and after spooning off some of the fat.

Making the sauce

Cooked chicken with the apricot sauce

The final step is to put the base of the tagine under the broiler just briefly, until it gets a few bits of brown on top, and then to sprinkle with sesame seeds. I served it over cooked Teff, but if you eat wheat it would be traditional to eat over couscous. Delicious! Recipe below.

Caramelized and ready to eat!

Chicken-apricot tagine, over teff. Delicious.


Chicken Tagine with Dried Apricots and Pine Nuts, from Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco:


– 4 large chicken thighs, about 2 pounds
– 1 small garlic clove
– coarse salt
– 2 tablespoons saffron water
– 1 tablespoon La Kama spice mix
– 1 teaspoon Smen, optional (I did not have this)
– 3 tablespoons sugar
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
– 7 to 10 sprigs each fresh cilanto and flat-leaf parsley, tied together
– 20 dried apricots, about 5-1/2 oz, preferably moist and chewy
– 1/3 cup orange juice
– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
– 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
– freshly ground white pepper
– 2 tablespoons pine nuts OR toasted sesame seeds (I used black sesame seeds)

La Kama Spice Mix

– 1 teaspoon ground ginger
– 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
– 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, (Moroccans grind this from sticks)
– 1/2 teaspoon cubeb pepper, optional (I did not have this)
– 1 healthy pinch grated nutmeg

Saffron Water

– 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
– 1 cup hot water


1. La Kama Spice Mix. For the La Kama spice mix, mix the ground spices thoroughly. She says to sift them but I just stirred them a lot until all lumps gone. Then store in jar in cool, dark place.

2. Saffron Water. For the Saffron water, dry 1/2 teaspoon crumbed saffron strands in a warm (not hot) skillet. Crush again, then soak in 1 cup hot water. Store in a small jar in the fridge, will keep for up to a week. (I used more like 1/8 teaspoon saffron and 1/4 cup hot water since I knew I was unlikely to use the extra within a week.)

3. Trim the chicken of excess fat, wash and pat dry. Slide your fingers under the skin to loosen.

4. Crush the garlic with 1/2 t coarse salt in a mortar. Stir in the saffron water, spices, smen if using, and 1-1/2 t of sugar. Coat the chicken with the mixture on all sides and under the skin (I did this in a glass bowl), then allow to stand for 30 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, put the onion, oil, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup water in a medium tagine, preferably flameware, set on a heat diffuser over medium-low heat and cook, covered, unit the onion is soft and golden, about 20 minutes. (this took a bit longer for me, takes a bit for the tagine to get fully heated I think.)

6. Add the chicken and marinade to the tagine and lightly color each piece on both sides – I turned the heat up to medium-high for this and watched carefully. Then add the herbs and 1/4 cup hot water, reduce heat to a bare simmer, and cook, covered, 45 minutes, turning the thighs once for even cooking.

7. Meanwhile, place the apricots, orange juice, the remaining 2-1/2 T sugar, the butter, and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced and syrupy, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon stick before use.

8. Uncover the tagine and skim off the excess fat from the cooking liquid. Add the apricots and the syrup and continue to cook, covered, until the chicken thighs are cooked through and the flesh is nearly falling off the bone. (I did another 20 minutes but you could easily do longer.) Add salt to taste and a good pinch of white pepper.

9. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and cook, covered, yet another 10 minutes. Then discard the herbs. Meanwhile, heat the broiler, with a rack 7 to 9 inches from the broiler.

10. If your tagine is flameware/ovenproof, you can just take the lid off the tagine and slide the base in under the broiler until just glazed, 1 to 3 minutes, watch carefully. (If your tagine is not flameware, you’ll need to transfer the contents of the tagine to an ovenproof dish.) Then spoon the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with the pine nuts or sesame seeds, and serve immediately. I served this over teff, which was delicious.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Potatoes, Olives, and Preserved Lemon

I made another Moroccan chicken tagine recently – they’re simple, easy to cook, flavorful, and hearty – you can’t go wrong really. During the trip to Morocco in March 2011 we did a tagine class, where each of the dozen of us made a unique tagine – the combinations are really endless!  There are some general traditional guidelines, such as, the “savory” tagines often have the preserved lemon and olive ingredients, and the “sweet” tagines often have cinnamon, nuts, and dried fruit. But you don’t generally mix the cinnamon with preserved lemon for example. I enjoyed the sweet tagines but tend to like the savory ones best.

For my latest tagine I started with a recipe (below) from Peggy Markel, and tweaked it a bit by adding potatoes. I remembered from that tagine class in Morocco, how tasty the potatoes were in the final dishes that had them. This recipe called for sliced onions in the bottom of the tagine, and you put the chicken pieces on top, after rubbing them with spices. The onions  keep the chicken from sticking to the bottom of the tagine.

Ingredients; homemade preserved lemon

The chicken on top of the onions

Then the potatoes and herbs and some more of the onions went on top of the potatoes, along with a small amount of water. It cooked in the tagine on low heat for an hour, I added the olives in the last few minutes, and a bit more preserved lemon on top at the end. In the meantime I cooked a small batch of quinoa. Really tasty, satisfying, and easy!

Ready to eat!

Here’s the recipe:

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Lemons and Olives

1 pound chicken chicken parts
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 preserved lemon
2 onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves
1 bouquet fresh parsley and cilantro
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 pinch saffron threads
salt and pepper
1/2 cup purple olives, For a sweeter version, omit the olives and add 1 tsp cinnamon along with the other spices in step one.

1. Separate the chicken into pieces and coat with ginger, turmeric, saffron and 2T of olive oil, salt and pepper.

2. Cut the preserved lemons into quarters, and separate the pulp from the peel. Finely slice the peel and reserve for later use. Chop and add the lemon pulp to the chicken. In a tagine or casserole, heat 2T of oil . Add half of the sliced onions. Put the marinated chicken on top. Add the other half of the onions on top of the chicken. Add salt and pepper and the parsley and coriander bouquet garni. (And I added 2 potatoes, cut lengthwise into wedges.)

3. Add 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 30-40 minutes. Check the chicken periodically with a wooden spatula to make sure it’s not sticking. Simmer until the chicken juices run clear and the meat is moist and tender.

4. Add the olives 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with lemon peel at the end. Serve piping hot!


We had artichoke hearts in one of our tagines in Morocco, I’m sure they grow well there (unlike where I live in Michigan). The week after I got home, my local grocery store had such lovely artichokes that I couldn’t resist, and bought two for Friday night’s dinner. I just steamed them and ate them like I did on special occasions when I was a kid – dipped the leaf ends, and the heart, in butter and lemon. Yum.

A perfect combo

Cynar-based cocktail

The following evening Elph continued the artichoke theme, by modifying a cocktail from, called The Art of Choke, that calls for Cynar, an Italian amaro (bitter liqueur) that has artichoke as one of its prominent components. Here’s Elph’s version:

1.25 oz Cynar
1 oz White Rum
.25 oz Green Chartreuse
25 oz lime juice
dash Angustora bitters

Very nice.

Lemongrass Tea

I needed to cut back my lemongrass plant this morning, so I brought out my new Moroccan teapot and made a pot of lemongrass tea with the trimmings – perfect on a rainy/sleety day. -Jillian

Lemongrass tea

Moroccan Fish Tagine – Tagine Bil Hoot

Last Saturday night for dinner, I cooked a fish tagine, following a recipe from Cooking at the Kasbah, by Kitty Morse.

You don’t have to have a tagine, you can use an enameled cast-iron pot with a lid. Use a firm-fleshed fish like mahi mahi, red snapper, or sea bass. The author says that small sticks of bamboo are often crisscrossed at the bottom of the cooking vessel to prevent the fish from sticking to the pot; this uses carrot slices instead.

I made this with mahi mahi and pitted green olives in water, and my frozen Roma tomatoes from last summer’s garden. I added a little extra water to the tagine with the carrots since I think my Romas had less water than 4 fresh tomatoes would have had. The fish was very thick so took 20 minutes to cook. It did need salt at the end. Garnish with plenty of cilantro. I cooked quinoa instead of couscous for a gluten-free grain, and served the fish and veggies over it, very nice to have something to sop up the juices.

Recipe follows the photos, enjoy! -Jillian

Toasting the saffron

Marinating the mahi mahi

Tomatoes, garlic, and cumin cook for a few minutes to thicken

Then you layer the carrots on the bottom, onions over that, and spoon the sauce over

Adding the fish, olives, and lemon to the veggies

The finished dish over quinoa; a nice melding of flavors - fish, preserved lemon, olives, spices.



– 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
– 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced, plus more for garnish
– 1/2 cups olive oil
– 2 teaspoons Sweet Hungarian Paprika
– 8 threads Spanish saffron threads, toasted and crushed
– 1 teaspoon ground ginger
– 1 lemon
– 4 six-ounce boned fish fillets, firm fish like red snapper, sea bass, mahimahi
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
– 1 teaspoon ground cumin
– salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
– 2 carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally
– 1 onion, thinly sliced
– 1 tablespoon preserved lemon pulp
– 12 green or black olives, pitted
– fresh cilantro for garnish


1. Toast the saffron for 2 to 3 minutes in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Then crush. In a large bowl, mix the parsley, cilantro, olive oil, paprika, saffron, and ginger. Add the juice of half a lemon. Coat the fish fillets with this mixture and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, turning over once or twice. Cut the other half of the lemon into thin slices and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the tomatoes, garlic, and cumin. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Place the carrot slices in a single layer on the bottom of a tagine or enameled casserole or dutch oven. Cover with the onion slices. Spoon the tomato sauce over the onion. Cover and cook over medium heat until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Set the fish on top of the vegetables. Spread a little preserved lemon pulp over each fillet and top each one with a slice of lemon. Add the marinade. Surround the fish with olives. Cover and cook over medium heat until the fish is flaky, 10 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

Ras el hanout

A Marrakech spice market.

Until recently, I had not heard of Ras el hanout. Now I seem to stumble across references to it frequently – online, in food magazine, and in travel accounts. It’s an intriguing spice blend, and there is apparently no one “right” way to create it, it can contain a dozen spices, or a hundred. I’m looking forward to tasting dishes made with it in Morocco, in only a couple weeks!

Moroccan Pear Salad with Endive

Moroccan pear salad with endive

I made a “Moroccan Pear and Leaf Salad” last night. I had two perfectly ripe pears, and the recipe suggested endive as the “leaf”, so that’s what I used. Not something that I usually have on hand but I bought some since I thought it would be interesting to try.

The flavors were great together – the sweet juicy pear with the tart fresh lemon juice and peppery extra virgin olive oil, and the salt brought out the flavors even more. I liked the crunchy endive leaves, and with their scooped shape I could get more of the dressing and the pear juice in each bite.

Here’s the recipe, courtesy of the Morocco section of Claudia Roden’s cookbook, “Arabesque, A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon”:

Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 ripe pears
A few ounces of some kind of greens

First you mix the lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper in a serving plate. I kind of whisked them together with the flat of a fork. Then peel the pears, and slice each pear into 8 long slices, cutting out the core. (I usually eat fruit like pears without peeling them, but I think it was important to peel them for this, the peels might be a bit tough in this salad.) Put the pears into the dressing and roll them so they’re coated (so they don’t turn brown). Then toss in the greens and serve.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine and Beet Salad

I’ve been continuing to play with cooking Moroccan food. Last night I made a chicken tagine, with green olives, onions, garlic, preserved lemon, cilantro, and lots of spices (ginger, cinnamon, paprika, saffron, turmeric, cumin…). I was loosely following a couple recipes I found on the net, together with common sense (they couldn’t really mean 2 Tablespoons of salt, for example, and I think they forgot to call for any chicken broth or water), and it came out great. Very easy, fragrant and tasty. I served over quinoa instead of couscous to be gluten-free. I also made a Moroccan beet dish on the side, which was simple and wonderful. I boiled the beets until just tender, peeled and cut them up, and tossed them in a dressing made of fresh lemon juice, cumin, olive oil, salt, and chopped garlic, and let them marinate for a couple hours before dinner. A great winter meal. Photos follow!  -Jillian

Moroccan beet salad

Ingredients for the chicken tagine

The tagine ready to start cooking

Chicken tagine, ready to eat!

11 Reasons to Come to Morocco with Zingerman’s, March 20-29, 2011!

11 Reasons to Come to Morocco with Zingerman’s, March 20-29, 2011!

– Eat your fill of delicious Moroccan food – citrus and spices, lamb, chicken, and seafood, chickpeas and nuts, fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables, couscous and breads, and much more. Savor the results of a blending of cultures over thousands of years, including Berber, Middle Eastern, French, and Spanish.

– Explore the vibrant markets of Marrakech with our experienced guides. Sip mint tea in the central market of Jemaa el Fna and enjoy some of the best people-watching anywhere!

– Relax and unwind in the villa of Jnane Tamsna, an oasis of color and comfort, surrounded by lush organic gardens and orchards.

– Dive in and cook some traditional dishes! Learn directly from Moroccan cooks and producers about the traditional elements of Moroccan cooking – from aromatic spices and hand-rolled couscous, to the distinctive tagine cooking pot and the wonderful variety of dishes made in it, to the hand-made bread baked in Berber clay ovens.

– Ride a camel by the seaside and explore a Berber village perched high in the mountains with a stunning view of the valley below.

– Learn about Argan nut trees, little known outside of Morocco. The Argan forests are a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the oil from the nuts tastes great!

– Wander the streets of the ancient fishing village of Essaouira – feast on the freshest seafood, admire the Berber carpets and fragrant thuya-wood carvings in the market.

– Experience the brilliance of the stars in the jet-black night where the desert meets the ocean.

– Walk the caper, fig, and walnut groves and learn about traditional Berber mountain agriculture.

– Soak, steam, and scrub at a Hammam and witness the social scene. The Hamman is a descendant of the Roman bath and is modeled after Turkish baths.

– Sway to the trance-inducing music of the Gnawa or the classical Andalous, or perhaps some Berber folk music, as you sit back content and full from dinner, enjoying the mild evening and the flow of music and conversation under the trees and stars.