dimanche 5 avril 2009

Tajine of chicken, preserved lemon and olives

Springtime brought back memories of buying large bouquets of 50 tulips in Paris for a small price. Buying bouquets of flowers every week was a treat I gave myself for the first few years that I lived there. Flowers were inexpensive, at least in comparison to Toronto prices, and brightened up the apartment. Somehow it seemed to me to be a very Parisienne thing to do. And the spring arrival of the tulips was extra special. I even bought a large vase on one of my trips to Amsterdam to accommodate these large bouquets.

This bunch of tulips I bought in Luxembourg brought back the memories of the spring tulips in Paris.

Another bonus of this week was that I found preserved lemons. This gave me the chance to try another Moroccan recipe - a tajine of chicken with preserved lemons and black olives.

Preserved lemons are lemons (usually small ones like Myers but any will do), slit lengthwise about 2/3 of the way, then packed in salt, water and lemon juice in a sterilized jar for about a month. The tartness of the lemon is mellowed and the flavour enriched by this process. Preserved lemons are often used in North African cuisine.

Saffron is probably the world’s most expensive spice. These red filaments are the dried stamen of the crocus flower. There are large variations in the quality of saffron. Saffron is used to give dishes a yellow colour and add a subtle flavour. Saffron is common in Mediterranean and North African cuisine. Fortunately a little goes a long way with saffron.

Turmeric is a dark yellow power that also gives a yellow colour to food. It is sometimes referred to poor man's saffron. The taste is different and the two spices are sometimes used in combination.

The black olives that I used for this dish were of the large Greek Kalamata variety. They are probably my favourite black olives.

Chicken Tajine with Preserved Lemon and Olives
Serves 2-3

15 mL (1 Tbsp) olive oil
500 g (1 lb) boneless chicken breast or thigh, cut into large pieces
1 large onion, sliced
5 mL (1 tsp) finely diced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
Pinch of saffron pistils
2 tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 preserved lemons, quartered, peel only
2 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2.5 cm (1”) pieces
250 mL (1 cup) water
250 mL (1 cup) black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

125 mL (½ cup) olive oil
7.5 mL (½ Tbsp) turmeric
7.5 mL (½ Tbsp) mild paprika
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix together marinade ingredients, add chicken pieces and leave to marinate for 4 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator). Heat olive oil in a large pot or Tajine. Brown marinated chicken pieces and set aside. Cook sliced onions until softened and lightly coloured. Add ginger, garlic, saffron, tomatoes, preserved lemon and carrots; cook for 5 minutes. Return chicken to pot or Tajine and add water; simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Add olives just before serving.

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