04 June 2012

Tajine de poulet aux pruneaux

For lunch yesterday I decided to cook a chicken, and I had half a pound of good prunes in the refrigerator. Chicken braised with prunes can be made several ways, but one of the best to me is in a Moroccan style tajine. That's pronounced [tah-ZHEEN].

A tajine is meat and vegetables (or fruit) braised with Moroccan spices, including cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin, caraway seeds, turmeric, and hot red pepper powder (cayenne). It's like curry powder, but a slightly different combination of spices and without the ground mustard seeds that are often used in Indian curries. Tajines often contain dried fruit (prunes, raisins, dried apricots, almonds).

Tajine de poulet aux oignons et aux pruneaux
Chicken braised with onions, prunes, and Moroccan spices

To make the tajine, cut up a whole chicken or use pre-cut chicken parts that you like. The first thing to do is brown the chicken pieces in vegetable oil in a deep, thick-bottomed pot. While that cooks, cut up a couple of onions. Take the chicken out of the pan and put in the onions, cooking them on medium heat for 5 minutes.

To the cooked onions, add a dozen or more prunes, the juice of a lemon, and two (or even three) teaspoons of spices in the combination you choose. (If you can find Moroccan ras-el-hanout spice powder, use that.) Add a cup of water, and when all has cooked and reduced for three or four minutes, put the chicken back in the pot. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Along with the onions, prunes, and spices, some toasted almonds
would be good in this tajine, added at just before serving.

Cook the dish on top of the stove on medium-low heat, or in the oven at 350 degrees, for half an hour or more. Voilà. Click this link or this one to see recipes and photos of other tajines I've posted about over the years.

French cheeses: (clockwise from the bottom) Neufchâtel from Normandy;
Chaource from Champagne; Selles-sur-Cher goat cheese from
the Saint-Aignan area; and Camembert from Normandy

The best side dish to eat with a Moroccan-style tajine is couscous. Cook it according to package instructions. Or you can have rice, or even potatoes. Being unconventional — at least slightly — we had a selection of French cheeses as a second course, replacing dessert.

And one more photo: CHM petting Bertie, who was perched
on top of our poubelle.

Other than lunch, we had a quiet day surfing the web on our respective computers, watching French Open tennis matches on TV, and just passing the time and resting up. In the afternoon, CHM and I went for a drive around the area, through Orbigny, Céré-la-Ronde, Montrichard, Thésée-la-Romaine, and Saint-Aignan.


  1. A great dish.

    Quinoa. The best solution for gluten free Couscous. Once mixed with all the spices and sauces, it's hard to taste a difference, though the texture is still different.

  2. Sounds delicious. Did you use a special tagine to cook it in or is that special type of vessel more hype?

    My daughter is asking for one, but they seem a bit of an odd shape to easily fit in an oven alongside other things.

  3. hey thats my cheese! great work on dinner :-)

  4. CHM looks very distinguished there, paying homage to Bertie. Bertie looks zoned out and I can almost hear him purring.

  5. When our friends come to visit, we often watch tv with our laptops in place- how our leisure has changed! Sometimes we google to find more about a subject on tv or in our conversations.

    Bienvienue CHM, I bet Bertie is glad to see you again.

  6. Nice to see a picture of my grand-dad here.

    Are you two going traveling this year like you did before, Ken?

  7. No travels, this year, Diogenes. CHM needs to be back in Paris starting Saturday, so our visit is short this year.

    Gaynor, I didn't cook the chicken in an actual tajine this year, even though we have a couple of them. The tajine is optional.

    OFG, sorry I failed to leave a comment on your blog. The cheese you made looked wonderful. I love the French Neufchâtel cheese and it would be interesting to see how the taste compares.

    Evelyn, CHM and I are on our laptops in the living room most of the day.

    Carolyn, Bertie was nervous because there were dogs around, and CHM calmed him down.

  8. Celiac Husband, quinoa would be good, or rice, or maybe millet. Millet might be the closest thing to couscous, and I assume it is gluten-free.

  9. Thank you Carolyn and Evelyn for your kind words.

    Diogenes, your grand-dad has to be in Paris for the delivery of all those boxes next week.

    Just like the people who live here, Callie and Bertie have been extremely nice and cheerful.

  10. I had never heard of ras-al-hanout until recently, in a recipe for Moroccan pork stew. I found it in a health food store here in Vernon. I had already made the recipe with the spices suggested as a substitute for it. I actually liked it better with the substitutes. Maybe it had been on the shelf for a while or something, but I thought it tasted vaguely like pencil shavings smell!

  11. Margaret, it does sound like the raz-el-hanout that you found had been on the shelf a little too long. Spices can lose some of their pungency and good flavor over time. Also, there are dozens, maybe more, combinations of spices that are sold under the ras-el-hanout name. You can substitue and customize at will.

  12. Excellent looking Moroccan Chicken dish, Ken! I'm thinking couscous with mine. A little different recipe than one I've made before. I'll be giving your version a try after I buy some prunes.

    CHM did a fine job calming Bertie down. Your poubette looks very similar to the ones here in Eugene.

    Mary in Oregon


  13. The poulet aux pruneaux looks delicious. I bought a tajine a couple of years ago and then realized I can't use it on an electric stove, although it's had a couple of outings inside the oven, after I've removed the racks to accommodate its height. Next time, I'll measure.

  14. Supposedly the shape of the tajine allows steam to rise, condense and fall back to keep everything moist. You are supposed to put cold water in the cup on the lid handle to encourage the condensation. I've never bothered purchasing one and find an ordinary stockpot or casserole is perfectly adequate.

    For me the main difference between an Indian spice mix and a North African one is fenugreek.

  15. That's interesting, Susan, but I have a tin of Bolst's Curry Powder, purchased in London but imported from India, that has fenugreek listed as an ingredient. And I have a bag of Ras el hanout that does not contain fenugreek! I don't think there's any definitive list of spices that go into either mixture. I've never seen Ras el hanout with mustard seeds listed as an ingredient, however. The Bolst's has mustard in it.

  16. Sorry Ken - you misunderstood me - I meant ras el hanout never has fenugreek and curry mixes usually do. It's fenugreek more than anything else that gives the classic curry smell.

  17. Susan, okay. I still see a lot of recipes for the ras-el-hanout powder that contain fenugreek, but none with mustard seeds.


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