Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons, Black Olives and Nigella Seeds

From Matthew Altizer

2014 Mar/Apr

This tagine isn’t as common as some and the flavours are unusual and delicious. Nigella seeds are the same thing as onion seeds and can be found at any specialty grocer. Buying a tagine – the cooking vessel – is well worth the investment. The conical shape forces the condensation back down into the stew, keeping it luscious and tender


  • 1 chicken, backbone and wings removed, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 t. nigella seeds, lightly toasted
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced against the grain
  • 1 c. chicken stock
  • 1 large pinch saffron steeped in 2 T. hot water
  • 1 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 lb. potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 T. finely chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 12 kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1 preserved lemon, pulp removed, thinly sliced


Rinse the chicken pieces under cold water and pat them dry. Crush the garlic, half of the nigella seeds and a big pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Add 1 T. of olive oil and rub this mixture all over the chicken pieces. Let the chicken marinate for an hour at room temperature. Heat the remaining 3 T. of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan or tagine over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken, making sure it gets well browned on all sides. Remove the chicken and sauté the onion for 10-15 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the chicken stock, saffron water and ground ginger to the pan along with the chicken. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the breasts and cover them to keep them moist.

Add the potatoes, tomatoes, remaining nigella seeds and half of the cilantro to the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the chicken legs and potatoes are cooked through. Add the chicken breasts back to the pan and stir in the remaining cilantro, lemon juice, black olives and preserved lemon. Cook for 5 more minutes and then sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and serve. Serves 4.