Chicken is a bit of an occasional treat for us, but first….. source your hen.
We buy our eggs from a man with a stall in Lavelanet market. He’s a rather dour chap with a tendency to tell you off if you forget to bring an egg box for your purchases. But our friend Mireille has seen all his chickens pottering about in their huge field in the countryside south of Toulouse. She assures us they lead a thoroughly idyllic, bucolic existence, with nothing to do but feed, fossick for grubs and lay eggs for all the customers, until one fine day…. it’s all over, for one of them. Killed, plucked, gutted, packed up, and brought into market for someone like me. They’re only killed to order. On one Friday, you’ll tell him what you’d like to have, and the following week, he brings it to market for you.
And the 11 euros or so we pay is such good value. His birds are so tasty, a little goes a long way: and once we’ve picked every scrap of flesh off, there’s all that wonderfully rich stock from the bones.
This is one of our very favourite recipes: and it’s easy too. Good hot or cold, summer or winter
Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives
1.5kg Free-range chicken
1 Large onion, finely chopped in a food processor
4 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp Ground ginger
1 Cinnamon stick
¾ tsp Turmeric
¾ tsp Saffron strands
3 tbsp Lemon juice
100g Kalamata olives
100g Small preserved lemons, halved, flesh discarded
50g Chicken liver, chopped
10g Coriander, chopped
10g Flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped.
- Put the chicken into a flameproof casserole, tagine or saucepan in which it will fit snugly. Add the onion, garlic, butter, ginger, cinnamon stick, turmeric and saffron; season. Pour in 700ml water, cover and bring to the boil over a medium-to-high heat. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer, spooning the sauce over the chicken and turning it over now and then until it is just cooked through – about 40 minutes. Lift the chicken onto a plate and cover with foil.
- Add the lemon juice to the casserole, increase the heat once more and simmer the sauce rapidly until reduced by about two-thirds. Return the chicken to the casserole with the olives and pieces of preserved lemon, cover with a well-fitting lid and simmer for a further 20–25 minutes until the chicken is tender. Lift the chicken onto a large, warmed platter.
- Add the chicken liver to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the herbs and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.