Moroccan Roast Chicken

sunshine in a grey winter


This is almost like chicken tagine but less intimidating and needs no special chimney stack like equipment.  All you do is rub over some spices and stick some preserved lemons and onions up the chicken’s bottom and shove it in the oven the next day – great for preparing ahead.  I like the fact that the sauce is made separately with the juices of the meat – like an exotic gravy.

Ingredients for the spice rub

1 whole chicken

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled (if you do not have the recipe will still be tasty)

1 small clove garlic, finely chopped or pressed

1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander

1 tablespoon olive oil & 1 tablespoon lemon juice or water

and for the cavity of the chicken:

1 onion

1/2 preserved lemon roughly chopped (depulped)

Ingredients for the sauce

2 large onions

2 cloves garlic

1 piece of fresh ginger approx 4cm x 4cm

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

1 cinnamon stick

3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled

1 preserved lemon, quartered and seeds removed

100g green olives (pitted)

Gadgets & Gizmos

No special equipment necessary which makes this recipe really “doable” – you deep a deep roasting dish as the chicken is slow roasted and should produce a good amount of juice.

How To


Mix all the spices and oil and lemon juice together for the spice rub and massage it into the chicken as if at the chuck massage parlour. In particular loosen the skin that covers the breast and get the spices into the breast meat. Refrigerate overnight if your life is planned and ordered – if not even a couple of hours with this rub makes a huge difference.

make the sauce…and this sauce does taste better the next day so its worth making ahead.


Put the saffron strands in a glass of hot water. This is best done with a cup of coffee to hand as its worth taking time to just watch them float around and watch the water change colour. simple pleasures and all that.

Slice the onions roughly and place in a saucepan with the garlic, remaining spices, fresh coriander, oil and a little butter.  Cook gently until the onions are just translucent.  Add the saffron water and blend with a stick blender.  If you do not have a stick blender then mashing the onions will be fine – a more textured sauce is perfect but just make sure you cook the onions down really slowly and gently until they have almost ‘melted”.

How I Roast Chicken:

Switch your oven to 180C . Dont wash your chicken out as you will just spatter your kitchen and work surfaces with a bazillion bacteria – if you are paranoid then pour plain old vinegar (“otet”) through it to kill all nasties. Put your aromatics inside. Put the chicken, breast side down in a roasting tray (any old pyrex dish, baking tray will do…I like mine deep to then make sauce and to cope with the wine I usually pour on) and pour on leftover wine or just some water.  After one hour stick a knife in the ball joint between the main body and the leg and try and wiggle the leg off…if there is blood and the meat is raw (likely) cook for 20-30 minutes more. Turn it breast side up.  When all juices run clear its done.


Making the exotic gravy

Pour the juices from the roasting pan into the onion sauce mixture, stirring to blend. Add the preserved lemon and olives, 2 or 3 tablespoons of water, and simmer the sauce over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the flavors are well-blended and the sauce is very thick. This is when the magic happens.


You can serve the chicken covered in sauce or portions of chicken with sauce spooned over – as you please.

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