Chicken With Preserved Lemon, Soft Black Olives, And Nigella Seeds

This past Wednesday we made our drive back home to Missouri.  I drove 14 hours and my daughter 2 hours with one dog in the back seat.  My husband took our other dog in his car.  To say the least I was exhausted all day on Thursday and part of Friday.  It’s hard for me to understand why sitting all day long would make me so tired, but it did.  At any rate, we’re home and settled in again, like we never left.

Prior to leaving Colorado, I posted a recipe for Preserved Lemons from Paula Wolfert’s cookbook, “The Food of Morocco.”  Although I’ve never been to Morocco, from what I’ve seen and read I’d love to visit someday.  After ordering Paula’s book I became addicted to reading it. There’s a wealth of  information about Morocco, the food, their culture, special Moroccan secrets for preparing dishes, plus wonderful photos of it all.  Paula Wolfert’s recipes are so well written, revealing even the smallest tidbit of information was so useful, linking one page or item to another page giving greater detail, so your finished dish reaches perfection. Superb!
After posting the recipe last week for Preserved Lemons I realized I made an error saying that the lemons only took 7 days to prepare.  You prepare them in one day, placing them in a tight fitting jar, however, you should wait up to 30 days before eating them for superior flavor.  I’m sure by now if you’ve had the chance to review the recipe, you noticed the error.  I’ve since made the necessary corrections on last weeks post.
If you’ve attempted to make the preserved lemons I hope after the 30 days you’ll try this recipe.  My husband who isn’t fond of experimenting with new dishes tried this and finished everything on his plate then went back for more.  Both my kids and I enjoyed it too.  Everything was gone.
One word of advice though – be sure to rinse the preserved lemons well to remove any remaining salt, otherwise they’ll be too strong.
I would also recommend to mise en place all ingredients in the recipe before starting to cook for ease of preparation.

Read the ingredient list and directions entirely at least 2 times, plus the asterisks (*) before embarking on this recipe.  It’s really quite simple.

Here’s the recipe……   

Chicken with Preserved Lemons, Soft Black Olives and Nigella Seeds
Yield: 4 servings


One 3-pound chicken, quartered, backbone and wings removed

1 small garlic clove

*2 teaspoons nigella seeds, toasted and divided

2 teaspoons coarse salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

**2 tablespoons saffron water

1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 small tomatoes, peeled, halved, seeded, and diced

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, divided

Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

12 Kalamata or Gaeta olives, pitted, soaked in water to remove excess salt and vinegar, and drained

1 preserved lemon, pulp removed, rind rinsed and quartered


1. Rinse the chicken quarters and pat dry; trim away any excess fat. Slide your fingers under the skin to loosen it from the flesh.

2. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic, half the nigella seeds and the salt to a paste. Mix in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Rub this mixture under and over the skin of the chicken.

3. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and fry, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Push the chicken to one side of the skillet and carefully tilt the skillet to the other side, and use a spoon to remove almost all the fat.

4. Spread out the chicken pieces, flesh side down, add the onion, cover, and steam for 5 minutes.  Add 1 scant cup hot water, the saffron water, ginger, and pepper and bring to a boil   Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken breasts to a side dish.  Cover to keep moist.  

5. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, the remaining nigella seeds, and half the cilantro to the sauce in the pan.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and chicken legs are fully cooked.

6. Return the chicken breasts to the skillet and reheat.  Correct the seasoning with the lemon juice, and baste the chicken with the sauce.  Decorate the dish with the olives, the preserved lemon wedges, and the remaining cilantro.


* Nigella Seeds – I had a difficult time finding Nigella Seeds, however they are also found under the name Charnushka (Nigella Sativa) at Penzey’s.

** How to make Saffron Water – Dry 1/2 teaspoon crumbled strands of saffron in a warm (not hot) skillet.  Crush again, then soak in 1 cup hot water and store in a small jar in the refrigerator.  This will keep for up to a week.  For longer storage pour the saffron water into a plastic ice cube tray and freeze into cubes.  Once frozen, shake out the cubes and store in a freezer bag.  Each cube will be equivalent to 2 tablespoons saffron water or a good pinch of dried saffron threads.

Although there are several steps to making this dish it all comes together quickly.  I hope you try this tasty and unique Moroccan dish.


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  1. Nice classic Moroccan recipe! Chicken and preserved olives is a hugely popular dish there (as is the addition of olives). I haven’t read Wolfert’s newest Moroccan cookbook – I have her old one. But I understand she has a lot of new material in the new book. Anyway, great recipe – thanks.

    • I only have this book, I haven’t read her others but I’m sure they must be great. Here recipes are so well written, not to mention delicious! You’ll have to share your time in Morocco with me sometime.

  2. Your chicken recipe has my brother doing whatever I wish if I make it for him 😀
    Thank you 😛

    Choc Chip Uru

  3. It’s funny Vicky, I bought Nigella seeds recently but didn’t have a recipe to use them in – now I do! Thanks, this sounds wonderful and very unique!

  4. The chicken must be very appetizing and flavourful.
    p.s I didn’t see where and when to use preserved lemons and olives in this chicken recipe…have I missed any cooking steps?

  5. What a flavorsome recipe! I love saffron but i have only used it in desserts so far. It would be nice having its aroma and subtle flavor in chicken too… Just brilliant!

  6. Oh I love this chicken recipe! Of course anything with preserved lemons gets my vote. I keep a jar of homemade preserved lemons in the fridge at all times. I can’t tell you how many chicken dishes, salads and pastas that I’ve thrown them in. I do have to admit that I never rinse my lemons because I love the strong salty taste. 🙂 They are too salty for some, so rinsing is not a bad idea. Yummy dish!

    • How nice to have the lemons on hand at all times. They’re so easy to make but my family agreed they needed a good rinse. We don’t eat much salt so for us it would be too strong if not rinsed well. I will have to put them in salads, that sounds great.

  7. An absolutely beautiful and easy recipe I’ll try soonest! Here in Australia nigella seeds seem quite easy to buy, even if not from all suburban supermarkets: there are so many wonderful spice stores on line. Must admit I make my saffron inclusions fresh every time – feel the aroma and taste are more prominent. And not being a baker for health reasons , use the precious commodity in so many savoury ways!

  8. I had trouble finding the seeds locally but did find them at a spice shop. I thought the saffron although subtle brought out a wonderful flavor it sounds like you use it in many dishes.

  9. I absolutely adore nigella seeds. Tyler bought me a pack and I love them in curries and baked onto the top of a yummy loaf of bread!

  10. Beautiful. I’ll have to track those seeds down. They sounds fantastic.

  11. I love the flavors in the chicken recipe! Looks great.

  12. Hello Vicky! I’m back from my trip and so are you! Well, it is ackward getting tired just by being sitted for such a long time. I work in an office and keep sitted most of the time. I arrive home exausthed. About the pictures. Well, I’m a pure amateur and my camera is far from being a pro: it is a Sony, Cyber-shot, 10.1 mega pixels. Although the camera is a common one, it is very good indeed. Sony might have launched new versions of it. My husband gave this one to me 2 or 3 years ago. (continue)

  13. I got very curious to taste this Preserved Lemon. I was wondering if it would fit with fish. What do you think? Anyway, I LOVE the detailed way you explaing everything regarding not only the receipt but also its gastronomical environment! Just keep going like that! Taking the opportunity: I brought a souvenir from my trip and I’m doing sort of a ‘give away’ at my blog. I’d be delighted if you would be interested on participate of it. Cheers, Paula

  14. Preserved lemon and chicken are one of favorite combinations! Thank you so much for sharing this.

  15. I don’t think there is a better combo than lemon and chicken… thanks for the kindness and comments… well wishes to you too! this looks great!

  16. I always have a jar of homemade preserved lemons in my fridge. They come in handy for so many things, including this fab chicken dish.

  17. Traveling can be exhausting, can’t it?

    This Moroccan chicken looks wonderful, and I’d love to try it. What great flavors!

  18. Wow, that Moroccan chicken looks wonderful! A must try! Wonderful flavor combo!

  19. I love the lemony flavor you chose for this chicken recipe! Traveling can be a pain but I’m sure its totally worth it when you get to settle in with this moroccan chicken and a glass of wine. 🙂

  20. delicious looking chicken – I’ve always thought of making preserved lemons but never have – scrumptious. I can relate to the exhaustion of the drive!!
    Mary x

  21. I’m new to Nigella seeds. I love trying all kinds of chicken recipe (it’s the easiest meat to feed to the kids) and I have never tried making this kind of chicken before (or Moroccan chicken). Looks delicious and I’m saving this recipe for a try!

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