Chicken Tagine with preserved lemon and olives: Emile Henry vs Les Touilleurs recipes

Chicken Tagine with preserved lemon and olives: Emile Henry vs Les Touilleurs recipes

The first recipe any new owner of a tagine will prepare is a Chicken Tagine with preserved lemon and olives. You can find tones of recipes for this classic Moroccan dish. But which recipe tastes the best?

I want to say that I am not a specialist in Moroccan cooking. I just trusted my taste buds. I am not looking for the most authentic recipe, I seeking the most delicious recipe for my liking.

I started my quest by testing the two recipes I received with the tagine pot. So round one is the manufacturer Emile Henry‘s recipe versus the recipe from one of the best cooking stores in Montreal, Les Touilleurs.

Review of Emile Henry’s recipe

I do not recommend the recipe as it is published on the Emile Henry’s booklet that in the tagine box. The taste of lemon was simply too strong. If we apply a few simple changes, I believe that the recipe has potential. You will find a link to the original recipe at the end of this post. I suggest you play around with it.

My preserved lemons have a strong flavor. I do not use a quick one-week version. If you do have the time to make the preserved lemons while in advance, I suggest you go to the farmer’s market. That is where I bought mines. They took a four to five week process to make them so they are full of flavor and soft.

If I ever redo this recipe, I would put it one preserved lemon instead of two for a whole chicken, unless the chicken is huge. I will start with the juice of a single lemon instead of two and adjust the lemon flavor as needed. I am a fan of lemons so it shows you how I feel about it. My husband was not impressed either.

On the plus side, the chicken was juicier than the one I made with Les Touilleurs’ recipe. I was not too keen on the warmed green olives when I ate that dish. I just noticed that their Web recipe simply inserts the green olives when plating while the recipe on their tagine recipe booklet called for 5 minutes cooking.

Review of the recipe by Les Touilleurs

Preserved Lemon Chicken Tagine with Olives inspired by Les Touilleurs

This one was definitely better. I dish each plate on a deep bowl with lots of fresh cilantro for added texture and extra savor. I served the Chicken Tagine on a bed of simple buttered grilled almonds and capers couscous mixed with a few dazzles of olive oil. I am getting more experienced.

I used 140 g of black olives with a smaller chicken instead of 200 g of green olives suggested by Les Touilleurs.

I did not add water during the cooking. This recipe used white wine as liquid. The chicken was moist but from what I recalled it was not as juicy as the Emile Henry’s recipe. We closed accidently the stove in the middle of the cooking so it may also be the reason. I will have to try it again to know for sure.

How to make a Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives?

I translated for you the recipes by Les Touilleurs and included my comments.

Ingredients for 4 persons:

  • 1 whole chicken (1.5  to 2 kg) that you cut in 8 pieces
  • 40 g (about 3 teaspoons) of butter
  • 3 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, uncut, skin removed
  • 2 minced average size onions
  • 2 pinches of saffron
  • 250 ml of white wine – we used a French Bourgogne Aligote
  • 140 g of pitted black olives (original recipe says 200 g of pitted green olives)
  • 1 preserved lemon cut in small slices. Each slice was divided in four pieces
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro
  • Pepper and Salt – which I forgot to put in


  1. Warm the butter and the olive oil in the tagine over the stove starting at the lowest temperature.
  2. When the oil is really hot, grill the chicken pieces. I slowly increase the temperature as needed, but always stayed much lower than medium.
  3. Meanwhile I mix the 2 pinches of saffron in my white wine and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  4. When the chicken is lightly golden grilled you removed the chicken from the tagine. Cook the onions and the garlic until golden in the tagine.
  5. Add the chicken and the wine to the tagine. Add salt and pepper, cover and let it cook for 60 minutes at low temperature. Check it out after 30 minutes and add some water if needed (liquid should cover about half to ¾ of the chicken breasts).
    After 45 minutes of cooking, put the olives in boiling water to remove some salt. Add the rinsed olives and preserved lemon to the tagine.
  6. Garnish with a handful of cilantro. If you served in a communal serving plate, I suggest you let people add the cilantro in their bowl or plate. Enjoy!

About Les Touilleurs

This independent store was awarded Gift Retailer of the year in Canada in 2004. If you like shopping and cooking, make time to visit Les Touilleurs next time you come to Montreal. This high end shop is worth a detour.

Recipe: Chicken Tagine with preserved lemon and olives By Emile Henry
Learn more: Web site of Les Touilleurs store in Montreal – only in French

  • Ben
    August 15, 2007 at 18:09

    Not very authentic to use wine. Could cause riots in parts of Morocco with that particular embellishment. Instead of just cilantro, use a 50/50 mix of cilantro and flat parsley– much tastier with chicken and much more Moroccan. Your recipe seems a little off. Try any of the the versions of this classical dish in Paula Wolfert’s “Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco.” One version (Djej Eshmel) uses grated onion quite successfully as a flavor and thickening agent.

  • At Home with kim vallee
    August 15, 2007 at 18:56

    Ben, I clearly stated at the beginning that the authenticity of the recipe is irrelevant to me. I only care about how it tasted. You will be glad to know that I am still searching for MY perfect Lemon Chicken Tagine.

    Your suggestion of 50/50 mix of cilantro and flat parsley seems one step in the right direction.

  • Farid
    August 21, 2007 at 22:36

    The Emile Henry recipe calls for much too much preserved lemon and lemon juice. For one whole chicken I normally us a quarter piece of lemon, sometimes 2-3 quarter pieces depending on how big the chicken and the version I’m making. I would add just a little squirt of lemon juice.

    Another thing they don’t mention is that the lemons should be rinsed before adding to recipes. Discard the pulp, rinse the rind and use the rind only.

    Their preserved lemon recipe is off. I never add vinegar to my preserved lemons and they never turn black. They keep for up to a year or more.

  • At Home with kim vallee
    August 22, 2007 at 01:07

    Farid’s ideas seem to solve most of my problems. I just visited his blog and I looked at his credentials. He is an experimented Chef born in France from Algerian parents. If it safe to say that he knows what he is talking about. Thank you very much Farid!

    Once I tried the modified recipe, I will keep you posted on the results.

  • Farid
    August 22, 2007 at 20:23

    I would further modify the emile henry recipe with less olives. We do have dishes smothered in olives in North African cooking, but we also use olives very lightly. I’d go for about 1/4 of a cup to 2/3 of a cup for this dish.

    I like Spanish manzanilla olives for this. I can’t get Algerian olives where I live and so I use the Spanish ones. Perfectly good substitute since Spain and Algeria have culinary connections going back a very long time.

    One more thing, the emile henry recipe calls for lemon juice, if you add wine to this recipe you’re adding even more acid. You will end up with a dish that is too acidic.

  • Leon
    February 5, 2008 at 12:52

    I purchased my lemons in a jar at a specialty store they were not much bigger than globe grapes so werent too strong. My problem with the Emilee Henri recipe is “3 glasses of water” i used a small juice glass and it was still way too much! Leon