An easy Moroccan chicken tagine recipe with prunes. Traditionally made with olives and preserved lemons, this is based on a lamb and prune tagine made instead with chicken or oyster fowl on a budget. This is spicy comfort food at its best - served with semolina, toasted almonds and coriander and a real crowd pleaser.
What is a Tagine?
A tagine, or tajine, is named after the dish they're traditionally cooked in. On family trips to Morocco, these dishes are seen everywhere at the markets with beautifully hand-painted patterns and vibrant colours. Alas I need to return, as I have broken not one - but two! - beautiful tagine dishes. This one left for my photos is far too small but you can see how it looks.
The dish itself is conical with a wide, round base. The speciality of the conical shaped lid is that it fits into the base wide-rimmed bottom dish. As the tagine cooks slowly inside, steam escapes out of the top conical funnel.
The result is a slow-cooked, one-pot casserole that's lightly spiced. Close your eyes, and imagine you're in Morocco. It's also healthy, as it doesn't contain a lot of fat. So, during the colder months, this is one of our best slow-cooked spicy stews.
Although traditionally cooked in a traditional tagine dish in Morocco, this is just as good cooked in a heavy crock pot or Dutch oven.
Moroccan Tagines - Popular in Paris
A Tagine is, broadly speaking, the French's answer to the British curry. The French go Moroccan with spicy stews.
When I first arrived in Paris in 1992, Indian curry houses were rare. On the other hand, Moroccan Couscous restaurants were - and still are - extremely popular. Tagine restaurants tend to have elaborate entrances and an ambiance as if stepping into a restaurant in Marrakesh or Fez.
Orange blossom fragrances dominate as candles are lit and it's all pretty romantic. Personally, I love Moroccan restaurants in Paris, as it feels like being transported to another land for the evening.
Easy Chicken Tagine Recipe
This is by far my best chicken tagine recipe. It started out from a magazine cut-out for lamb tagine - then each time I made it, I added notes like 'add more garlic', 'add saffron' and 'fresh coriander a must'. Add this and that.
So, this recipe started out as a more traditional lamb tagine with prunes but gradually, as the family have been eating meat less, we wanted this made with poultry. We've replaced it with something a bit more 'meaty' than chicken (see below) - even although chicken is super for this recipe.
Even our French/Spanish family members that live in Morocco approved this recipe - the ultimate compliment!
Chicken Tagine with Apricots
Not keen on prunes? Then replace them in this recipe with dried apricots. Even better if they're the dark, organic kind. The flavour combination of the spices, chicken and sauce goes so well together with the apricot too.
What Does Tagine Taste Like?
Traditionally, chicken tagine is made with olives and citron confit or preserved lemon. As this version can be a bit acidic, the kids prefer this moreish chicken tagine version with prunes.
It tastes like a very mild curry but instead of the usual Indian spices (garam masala, turmeric etc.), the flavours are predominately with cinnamon, cumin and ginger. Is it hot? That's up to you - I like just a little heat but if you want more, then up the quantity of the cayenne pepper.
What's more, with the prunes, it's slightly sweet which balances out the spice.
Best Chicken for Tagine - Oyster Fowl
So what's the special poultry meat that can fool us into thinking that it looks like lamb yet tastes slightly lighter? We find it at many local boucheries or at the local market: known as Sot l'y laisse or huîtres de poulet.
They are Oyster Fowl - two oyster-sized rounds of darker poultry meat, found near the thighs. This kind of meat is perfect for making a chicken tagine. It's thanks to our local market that when I asked what to do with it, the 'poultry lady' suggested I made tagine with it. Brilliant! It's the best idea indeed.
Chicken or turkey oyster fowl are best for this dish. They're rather large - so large that, by rule of thumb, we usually have 3 per person and they can be each cut into 3. They resemble pig's cheeks (joues de porc), another interesting ingredient for spicy dishes.
They're so much cheaper and just as tender as lamb in a slow-cooked casserole.
What do you Serve With Chicken Tagine?
Serve this Chicken Tagine with couscous, or medium sized semolina topped with toasted flaked almonds and fresh coriander leaves. Fresh pomegranate arills are also delicious and add an extra crunchy texture. It's also pretty as well as healthy - they look like gleaming red jewels.
For the semolina:
- Use about 100g (3.5oz) semolina per person with the same amount of water and cook according to packet instructions.
- So for 4 portions, use 400g (14oz) of semolina, tossed in a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper and 400ml of liquid: water topped with 2 teaspoons of Moroccan orange blossom water and mixed with a handful of golden sultanas, then heat.
Original Accompaniment for Chicken Tagine
For an alternative accompaniment, serve tagine with mini savoury macarons.
Spot the mini cumin spiced macaron? It's one of my savoury macarons from Mad About Macarons which uses mainly cumin and is ideal for serving before or during a fun spicy evening.
It's a taste sensation that tickles the senses: pop in a mini macaron and hit the cayenne spice then the second that follows, the reduced sugar in the macaron shells puts out the fire. Taste it and see!
Can You Freeze Chicken Tagine?
Absolutely! This chicken tagine recipe is a great dish for entertaining. Prepare it in advance - even the day before. What's more, it freezes well without the prunes. Just follow the first 2 recipe steps then cool and freeze. Once defrosted thoroughly, add the prunes and reheat.
Typical Moroccan Dessert After Tagine
On our few trips to Morocco, each time dessert was served it was so simple but so good following a tagine. Simply serve sliced juicy table oranges, tossed in a little orange blossom water and more grilled almonds - so save some almonds aside for later.
In fact, any dessert with orange is popular. One of the best desserts is a white chocolate mousse with a little orange blossom water and rose - the dessert flavours we enjoyed in Morocco.
Chicken Tagine with Prunes
- large non-stick casserole dish or Dutch oven
- 1.2 kg (2lb 12oz) chicken breasts or whole chicken cut into 12 pieces (or oyster fowl)
- 75 g (5 tbsp) plain flour T45
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic peeled & grated
- 5 cm piece fresh ginger grated
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you like it hot!)
- 2 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon 4-spices powder (cloves, cinnamon, ginger, pepper)
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 600 ml (1 pint) chicken stock
- sprig fresh thyme
- 3 tomatoes chopped (or ½ tin chopped tomatoes)
- 24 juicy Agen prunes (without stones)*
- Pinch saffron ground or strands (optional)
- 25 g (1oz/ 1 tbsp) almond slivers toasted under grill, for garnish
- 1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves for garnish
- pomegranate seeds (optional)
- Coat the chicken in flour and fry in olive oil in a large non-stick casserole dish. When browned on all sides, strain and remove from the pot and keep aside on a plate. Add the grated garlic, ginger and cayenne, frying for a minute. Add the rest of the spices and fry for a further minute.
- Add the chicken back to the pot with the chicken stock, saffron, if using, and thyme. Cover and cook on low heat for at least an hour.
- After an hour, add the tomatoes and prunes. Cook for a further 30 minutes. Prepare the semolina, as per packet instructions and serve with toasted almond slivers and the fresh coriander leaves.
- Serve with semolina (100g per person/100ml water including a tablespoon orange blossom water, a tablespoon olive oil for 6, pepper, salt, olive oil), prepare as of packet instructions and add a knob of butter when reheating.
- Goes well with a Moroccan red wine (we love 'Tandem', a syrah fruity/peppery red made as a joint effort by Alain Graillot and Ouled Thaleb winery near Casablanca).
Also freezes well in advance. Make the first part without the prunes. Cool, chill & freeze then after defrosting, reheat adding the prunes and continue the rest of the recipe. This serves 4 good portions or 6 if for a smaller appetite.
This recipe was first published 25 January 2019 but has now been completely updated and made easier to read.
Love winter warming slow-cooked casseroles? Then try these classic French stews: