A Tagine is, broadly speaking, the French’s answer to the British’s favourite curry. When looking for a bit of comforting spice and the warming exotic, as the British go Indian, the French go Moroccan. As we’re a British-French family we love both – but during the winter, one of our favourite slow-cooked casseroles is this Chicken Prune Tagine, as it’s lighter than it looks.
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. What I love about tagines (or tajines, named after the dish they’re traditionally cooked in) is that they’re healthy, too. No need for a heavy dessert afterwards, either. The best dessert following this? Sliced juicy table oranges, with a hint of orange blossom water and more grilled almonds, if you have any left – and what about a orange and prune macaron?
This has been my go-to splashed and tattered recipe for years, adapted from a magazine cut-out (with my added notes like ‘More garlic!’, ‘add saffron’ and ‘fresh coriander a must’). Even French/Spanish family that live in Morocco approved this recipe, which is the ultimate compliment. Ideally it’s cooked in a tagine dish but is just as good in a good, heavy crock pot.
This recipe started out as a lamb tagine but gradually, as the family have been eating meat less and enjoying more poultry, we’ve replaced it with something a bit more ‘meaty’ than chicken – even although chicken is super for this recipe. Traditionally, chicken tagine is usually made with olives and citron confit or preserved lemon (I love that too – recipe to come!). As it can be a bit acidic, the kids prefer this moreish chicken prune tagine version.
Meaty Poultry: Oyster (fowl) – Perfect for Chicken Prune Tagine
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.
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. Please remind me later if you’re interested, as I have another recipe I often make yet haven’t posted. It’s dynamite.
What do they have in common? They’re so much cheaper and just as tender as lamb in a slow-cooked casserole.
Serve this Chicken Prune Tagine with medium sized semolina (couscous). According to packet instructions for semolina, use about 100g (3.5oz) per person with the same amount of water. Instead, for 4 portions, I’ll use 400g (14oz) of semolina, tossed in a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper and 400ml of liquid: water topped with a tablespoon of Moroccan orange blossom water and mixed with a handful of golden sultanas, then heat.
Did you spot the 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 mac and hit the cayenne spice then the second that follows, the (reduced) sugar in the macaron shells put out the fire. Taste it and see!
Chicken Prune Tagine Recipe
A lightly spiced chicken tagine with prunes, served with orange blossom and sultana semolina and topped with toasted almonds and fresh coriander - perfect winter comfort food. Savoury macarons optional!
- 1.2 kg (2lb 12oz) chicken breasts or whole chicken cut into 12 pieces (or oyster fowl)
- 5 tbsp plain flour (for coating the chicken)
- olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic peeled & grated
- 4 cm piece fresh ginger grated
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you like it hot!)
- 2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp 4-spices powder (cloves, cinnamon, ginger, pepper)
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 600 ml (1 pint) chicken stock
- sprig fresh thyme
- 3 tomatoes chopped
- 24 juicy prunes (ideally with stones for flavour)
- Pinch saffron ground or strands (optional)
- 25 g (1oz) almond slivers toasted under grill, for garnish
- fresh coriander for garnish
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. 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 and thyme Cover and cook on low heat for at least an hour.
Add the tomatoes, prunes and saffron, if using. Cook for a further 30 minutes. Prepare the semolina, as per packet instructions and serve with toasted almond slivers and lots of fresh coriander.
Serve with semolina (100g per person/100ml water including a tbsp orange blossom water, a tbsp olive oil for 6, pepper, salt, olive oil), prepare as of packet instructions and add a knob of butter when reheating.
The tagine can be made the day before and reheated before serving. Also freezes well. I suggest making the first part without the prunes. Cool, chill & freeze then after defrosting, reheat adding the prunes and continue the rest of the recipe.
Serve 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).
Thanks so much for sharing, pinning or commenting below – it means the world to hear that you’ve either made/enjoyed this Chicken Prune Tagine or even popped in just to say bonjour.
I forgot to tell you one of our other favourite winter warming slow-cooked casseroles: it’s this classic French Blanquette de Veau.
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