Several years ago I read an interview with New Zealand food writer and author Lois Dash. When asked what two foods she can’t do without she replied, ‘lemons and parsley’. If you have lemons and parsley any (savoury) meal can be lifted to new heights of flavour. And the simple addition of lemon zest can liven sweet recipes.
Chicken Tagine with Olives and Lemon
- 1 free-range chicken cut into 8-10 portions (I cut the breasts in half)
- 1 large onion sliced thinly
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tsp honey
- Salt and pepper
- Approx. 1 cup kalamata olives or black olives
- 2 preserved lemons cut into thin slices
- Chopped fresh coriander to garnish
- Preheat oven 180C.
- Prepare the chicken and place in a large bowl. Arrange the sliced onions in a baking dish. Combine the olive oil, spices, garlic, honey, salt and pepper in a jug. Pour over the chicken and use your hands to massage the flavours into the pieces. Arrange evenly and snugly on top of the onions. Bake for 1 hour.
- Scatter the olives and preserved lemon slices over top of the chicken and return to the oven for a further 20-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked and golden on top. Serve with millet* (or couscous for traditional Moroccan) and chopped fresh coriander.
*scroll down for directions on making preserved lemons.
I am unsure about the rest of the country but lemons and citrus are prolific in these parts. From mid-winter into spring, trees strain under the weight of plump juicy fruit. Perfect for hot lemon drinks to tame a tickle in the throat, and adding to winter dishes for a little sunshine at the table often missing this time of year. We have several lemon trees in the backyard, my favourite Lisbon lemon has the most intense citrus zest and true sour lemon taste. But it is the Meyer lemon that has to take the cake for abundance and juiciness. This sweetly sour lemon is my favourite for adding to hot lemon drinks or slicing thinly to decorate a cake, and lends itself perfectly for making the Moroccan condiment, preserved lemons.
These salty sour preserved lemons add an intense citrus flavour to recipes. Traditionally preserved lemons are used in a tagine, the Moroccan equivalent to a casserole with a-whole-lot-more flavour. The recipe I share today is one of my favourite ways to use preserved lemons combined with some mild spices and olives. I hope it will become one of those recipes you return to often. I made it for my shared birthday dinner several weeks back where it was eaten with ‘oh’s and ah’s’, and queries about the intense citrus flavour. Well my friends, simply lemons preserved with salt.
If you have a lemon tree dripping with fruit (or raid your neighbours) you must make these. They add a zing to winter casseroles, and are particularly delicious with lentils complimenting their earthiness perfectly.
You will need:
6-8 small to medium homegrown or organic Meyer lemons, washed
500ml jar (Sterilise by pouring boiling water into the clean jar, leave for 1 minute then pour out the hot water and air dry on a rack.)
extra lemon juice if needed
First cover the base of the jar with a teaspoon of sea salt. Next, take one lemon and make two cuts through the middle but not all the way through so the lemon still holds together.
Hold the cut lemon apart with your fingers and spoon 1 teaspoon of salt into the cavity.
Press into the bottom of the jar. Repeat with the remaining lemons squashing as you go to release the juice and snugly fill the jar.
Top up with extra lemon juice if needed. This will depend on the juiciness of your lemons – I needed the juice of 1 extra lemon.
That is it, so simple. Secure the lid and leave for several weeks at room temperature before using. Give the jar a shake every few days for the first week to evenly distribute the salt (the preserving agent). And if needed, top up with extra lemon juice (I didn’t do this but you may need to). The lemons are ready when the zest is soft. Once opened store in the fridge. Preserved lemons will keep for 6 months (or longer, I have kept them in the fridge for over a year and they are still fine).