Chicken Tagine is a staple when it comes to Moroccan cuisine. I am pretty sure that you have heard at least once in your life of this dish.
But why is it called Tagine? Well, basically tagine refers o the vessel in which this dish is cooked - an earthenware pot, typical for North-African countries, like Algeria, Libya and Morocco. Due to its conical shape, it promotes and facilitates the process of condensation during cooking (the steam goes all the way up to the top of the lid and falls back again on the food through condensation), which not only preserves and enhances the aroma of the food, but it also tenderizes meat.
Does this mean that you need a tagine to make this dish? Not at all! My version is made using a Dutch oven, but you can use any pot that you want, just make sure it has a heavy bottom.
There are many variations of tagine - it can be made with olives, preserved lemons, vegetables, other types of meat - but my version today is a special one, since it contains an autumnal fruit which is extremely versatile - quince.
I am so happy to share with you this recipe since it is a very authentic one, because I have it from my brother in law who is Moroccan. When he prepared this dish for the first time, I was stunned! The combination is absolutely amazing and I think it represents Moroccan food at its best because sweet and savoury are often combined in this cuisine.
Start by squeezing the lemon juice and add it to the chicken pieces. Add approx. 500ml of water just enough to submerge it and marinate for 15 minutes. This step is very important as the lemon juice will make the chicken tender.
While the chicken marinates, you can prepare the quince. Always buy more quince than the recipe asks because it has a long shelf life and this is why some of them might be spoiled on the inside, although they look good on the outside. I had to use 2 extra pieces of quince to have a total of approx. 500g.
I removed the fine hairs with a special sponge and then I cut the quince into wedges. I have crested them lengthwise (see video - this step will help the syrup get inside each and every pore of the quince and give more flavour) and then I have added a little bit of lemon juice on each wedge so that it will stop the oxidization process. Set aside.
After 15 minutes, remove the chicken from the marinade and dry each piece with a clean towel. Add salt and pepper to each piece. In a cast iron pot, heat the olive oil and add the chicken and brown it for 2 minutes on each side.
After 4 minutes, remove the chicken pieces and leave them aside. Add the onion to the pot, together with some salt and cook for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon powder, give it a mix, then add the saffron.
Add the chicken pieces back to the pot, add enough water to submerge it, add the chopped coriander and cook everything for 30 minutes with the lid on.
In a pot, bring some water to a boil, together with the cinnamon stick and add the quince wedges one by one. Boil for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, remove them from the pot. In a separate pot, add 1 cup of the water in which the quince has boiled, add the sugar and the remaining cinnamon powder (1 tsp). Bring the syrup to a boil, then add the quince wedges and cook for 10 more minutes or until caramelized (see video).
After 30 minutes, the chicken should be ready and very tender. Take the chicken out and cook the sauce for 1-2 minutes to slightly thicken and intensify the flavors.
To serve the Chicken Tagine, add the chicken pieces to a plate, then add the quince pieces, then the sauce and top everything with coriander.
Serve with fresh bread or cous cous.