I love lemons. I can’t explain how much I love them. My favourite cake is lemon drizzle. I love those sugar coated lemon slices you get at Christmas and don’t even get me started on Limoncello (or remind me of that night I spent trying all the free samples in Sorrento). So when I decided to cook a Moroccan dish I was drawn straightaway to a tagine involving lemon. I have never tried preserved lemons before (although claim to fame, Christine Hamilton once asked me for a jar of them when I worked in Sainsbury’s), but I thought they’re lemons what’s not to love. Well how wrong I was. The tagine smelt and tasted amazing but every now and then I would get a mouthful of metallic, soapy mush. The little greeny, yellow morsels gave such a blast of flavour that every following mouthful was tainted by their intensity. So, I don’t like preserved lemons, which is a bit annoying as now I have a giant (expensive) jar of them staring back at me every time I open my fridge.
Now you may think it strange that I have included a recipe that I didn’t like, but apart from the lemons the tagine was amazing, the chicken melted off the bone and the fennel yielded a sweet aniseed flavour that mixed perfectly with the seasoned couscous. Also everyone else that tried it, liked it, lemons and all. So if you are a fan of preserved lemons feel free to try the recipe as written, if not swap the lemons for a 100g green olives. Whichever way you try it, enjoy!
Serves 4 – 6
- 4 chicken legs
- 4 chicken thighs (bone-in)
- 1 bulb fennel – chopped into wedges
- 2 onions – chopped
- 2 cloves garlic – minced
- 2 preserved lemons – deseeded and chopped
- Pinch of saffron
- 500ml chicken stock
- Salt & pepper to season
For the Marinade
- 1tsp ground cumin
- 1tbsp coriander seeds
- 1tsp ground ginger
- 3tsp olive oil
Put the chicken in a bowl. Mix the cumin, coriander seeds, ginger and oil together and use to coat the chicken pieces. Cover and put in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Heat some olive oil in a tagine or casserole dish. Fry a couple of pieces of chicken at a time, skin side down, until golden.
Put all the chicken in the pot and add the fennel wedges, onion and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes on a medium heat then add the saffron, lemons and stock. Stir everything together and cover the pot with the tagine lid (or if using a casserole dish cover with foil and then the lid). Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 ½ hours. Half way through check the dish, if it looks dry add a splash of water.
When ready check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve with hot couscous.