Paula Wolfert is an authority on Mediterranean food. Her cookbooks inspiring and different, her recipes fresh, festive and true to their originals. She once said: “No matter what the month, there is a tree somewhere in Morocco bearing fruit for the tagine pot. The combinations may seem unlikely at times, but I guarantee you will find them delicious.”

She goes on to say that the combination of lemon and olives is most popular in Morocco, and is traditional any time of the year. This multi-spiced classic tagine recipe employs cracked green olives to complement the sauce made with a combination of ginger, saffron, cinnamon, paprika, coriander, cumin, clove, garlic, lemon peel and olive oil. The meat cooked until falling off the bone.

This apartment [and this blog] have seen many highly-flavored and spice-rich dishes, but that’s not to say this was ordinary and tiresome. Paula is right — this classical version of tagine is really delicious and appeals to all our senses.


Moroccan green olive, preserved lemon and chicken tagine [serves 2 generously]

Printable recipe

4 T extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 large garlic cloves, minced

One 2 1/2″ strip of quick-preserved lemon peel [store-bought preserved or plain lemon peel are fine]

1 t ground ginger

1 t sweet paprika

1 t ground coriander

1/2 t ground cumin

1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

1/8 t cayenne pepper

1/8 t ground cloves

Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled

One 1 1/2″ piece of cinnamon stick

Kosher salt

2 chicken thigh and leg quarters, bone-in, skin-on

2 c water

1/2 large onion, 1/4″ dice

1 garlic clove, sliced

3/4 c uncooked couscous

1/2 c pitted green Picholine olives, rinsed

1/2 c flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1/2 c cilantro leaves, chopped

2 T fresh lemon juice

1/4 c almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

In a large bowl, mix 2 T olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, ginger, paprika, coriander, cumin, black pepper, cayenne, cloves, saffron, cinnamon stick and 1 1/2 t kosher salt. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.

Heat the remaining 2 T olive oil over medium-high heat in a dutch oven [or tagine if you have one]. Add the chicken and brown both sides [discard the lemon peel]. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion and garlic; cook until soft, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes. Return the chicken to the dish, add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until the chicken is very tender, about 1 hour.

Spoon off any fat from the broth. Pour the dry, uncooked couscous over top the chicken and stir around in the juices. Cook five minutes at a simmer with the lid off, then cover and remove from the heat to let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff the couscous around the chicken.

Back over a medium-low heat, stir in the olives, season with salt and cook for 2 minutes. Remove again from the heat and stir in the parsley, cilantro and lemon juice. Spoon into bowls, top with toasted almonds and serve [with a crisp Alsatian Pinot Blanc].

From A Book of Middle Eastern Food