Chicken Tagine with Olives and Lemons emshmel

This is one way of making the classic Chicken Tagine with lemons and olives. The emshmel variation is multi-spiced, creamy, lemony and served in a plentiful onion-based sauce.

Serves 6 people

2 chickens, cut up into 6 pieces each
225 g (8 oz) ripe olives
2 medium onions, grated
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crashed
2 preserved lemon
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of pulverised saffron
3 tablespoons freshly chopped green coriander
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

The day before, prepare the chicken marinade. Wash the chicken in salted water and drain. Crash 4 cloves of garlic and make into a paste with 2 tablespoons of salt. Rub into the chicken and then rinse under running water until the chicken no longer smells of garlic. Drain and set aside. Marinade with the remaining 2 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, spices and oil and refrigerate covered overnight.

The next day, place the chicken with the marinade in a 5-quart deep casserole over medium heat. Stir in one grated onion, the saffron and herbs and cook until the chicken is browned. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes – until the chicken is tender. Turn the meat often and add water whenever necessary.

After 30 minutes, add the rest of the grated onions and continue cooking, partially covered, for 20 minutes.

Quarter the preserved lemons and remove the pulp if desired. Rinse them and the olives, drain and set aside. When the chicken is very tender, nearly falling off the bone, add the olives, quartered preserved lemons and fresh lemon juice and cook, uncovered, for another 10 minutes.

To serve, arrange the meat on the serving dish, and spoon the lemon and olives around them. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce and pour over the chicken. Serve at once.