This probably one of my favourite recipes and although I would like to keep it a secret, I have decided to share it with you. Everyone loves chicken so this is sure to become a favourite that you can serve for your family and friends. When I make this dish, I am transported to the fragrant colourful world of riads and souks of Marrakech and Casablanca where the warm air is thick with the scent of spices and smoky incense.
If you like spicy, fragrant, juicy slow cooked meat, this recipe is for you.
This dish is ideal for novice cooks who don’t want to stretch their talents too far. In other words, it’s easy!
Moroccan Chicken is made in two parts – first the chicken is cooked on the hob for 40 minutes in a fragrant marinade, then finished in a very hot oven until golden brown.
One large, plump chicken, left whole
For the marinade/sauce:
One large onion, puréed*
One large tomato, puréed*
Four cloves garlic, puréed*
(Purée these key ingredients as they will form the base for the marinade and will add a silky smoothness to the finished dish. Start by blending the onion in a food processor, and once roughly chopped, add the tomato and garlic. Stop mixing once a the ingredients are finely chopped but not watery.)
One small handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
One small handful coriander, finely chopped
Two preserved lemons, finely chopped
Two bay leaves
One teaspoon turmeric
One teaspoon ground ginger
One teaspoon black pepper
One teaspoon sea salt
One teaspoon ground cinnamon
One stick of cinnamon
Four to six strands saffron (or ½ teaspoon saffron powder)
2 tablespoons olive oil
One half teaspoon smen* - optional (*Smen is Moroccan fermented butter made of sheep or goat’s milk and flavoured with salt and herbs. Smen adds a distinctive and authentic taste to this dish but you may find it difficult to track down in London. If you do, please email to let me know as my stocks are running low.)
½ cup water
Soak the saffron strands in one tablespoon of boiling water. Leave to infuse for around 30 minutes or longer, if you can. (In Persian folklore there are stories of seasoning an entire chicken with one strand of saffron. Saffran is a very powerful spice and should be used in moderation. Saffron has been noted for its medicinal properties since ancient times; for example there are records in Sanskrit of its use in Ayurvedic medicine.)
You will need a large pot- sufficiently big to hold the chicken.
Add all the ingredients for the marinade/sauce to the pot.
Mix all the ingredients together using a wooden spoon.
Add the whole chicken to the pot. Coat the chicken all over with the mix and rub it into the flesh using your hands. Add some of the mix into the bird’s cavity. Place the pan on the heat. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan tightly. Simmer the chicken for 40 minutes, covered. After 40 minutes, remove the chicken from the pan and drain off the cooking liquid (leave the cooking sauce in the pot). Place the chicken in an oven-proof dish and roast uncovered in a very hot oven (pre-heated to 200 degrees C) for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
Remove the chicken from the oven and keep warm, covered loosely with foil. Allow the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the final step.
Ingredients (for final stage):
One small handful green olives (stones removed)
Bring the cooking sauce to a boil, add the olives and cook over a medium heat, uncovered, until the sauce thickens (around 5 minutes).
To serve, pour the thickened sauce all over the chicken and garnish with thin slices of preserved lemon.