A taste of Morocco at La Maison Arabe: Chicken tagine & Moroccan salads

One week in Morocco was enough to change my picky palate.  While I don’t usually care for bread (why waste stomach space for something so bland?) or eat lamb (too gamey) I left those preferences back in London.  In Morocco, I wanted to eat as the Moroccans did.

Last week my friend V and I arrived in Marrakech, the first leg of our week-long Moroccan adventure.  Our agenda consisted of 2 days in Marrakech, a 3-day driving tour from Marrakech where we crossed the High Atlas Mountains to camp in the Saharan desert, and finally ended the trip in Fez.  I’ll be sharing some photos of the trip itself in the next few posts but today I want to share with you our best meal in Morocco.

A cooking class in Marrakech is called for if you want to learn about the backbone of Moroccan cuisine.  We arrived at La Maison Arabe for a 3 hour session with Mohammed, our good humored instructor.  Thirty minutes was spent on introducing us to the celebratory foods of Morocco such as mechoui (roast lamb) and pastilla – a sweet & savory  meat pie made with phyllo dough and consists of pigeon, lamb or chicken – usually served at weddings or a special event.  The 2 most important spices are saffron – the most expensive spice in the world – and ras el hanout, a 27 spice mix usually used for a savory dish.

Then the cooking started.  On the menu was a chicken tagine with preserved lemon and olives, crusty Moroccan bread along with two salads, eggplant and green pepper.  Once we were able to sit down and eat I realized how delicate Morocco tastes.  The flavors were light enough to keep me from being overwhelmed and addictive enough to keep me wanting more.

Here is the recipe for the chicken tagine that we learned to make at La Maison Arabe.  I didn’t expect this to be the best meal of our entire trip – and there were some pretty good ones.  Perhaps it was the whole experience that added to the delightfulness of the meal but I am for sure going to try to recreate this meal again.

Chicken tagine with preserved lemons

Chicken tagine with preserved lemons

400 grams of chicken cut in big chunks
1/2 of a preserved lemon, remove peel and chop the flesh
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 heaping tsp turmeric
a pinch of saffron
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ghee
4 tbsp water

In a tagine or Dutch oven add the chopped preserved lemon flesh, garlic, parsley & coriander along with all the spices.  Then coat the chicken in the marinade and add in onions.  Cook over medium heat for 20 – 25 minutes covered with a lid, turning the chicken every so often so the chicken won’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add a tablespoon of water in between turning the chicken to keep moist.

Add the remainder of the water and simmer for 40 – 45 minutes over med-low heat.  Once the chicken is nicely browned and the sauce is thick add in the lemon peel and 10 olives (optional), serve with couscous or bread.

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