Out of Africa: Spicy Chicken Tagine

“A rock in the water isn’t afraid of rain.”

African Proverb

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My friends Ann and Michael recently traveled to Africa for the trip of a lifetime.  They described vast open spaces of sheer raw beauty that moved them.   Kind gentle people who touched their souls. They spoke of  the many wonders of the animal kingdom where they were able to evesdrop on  animals in their natural habitats intimately, on safari. A life-changing trip.  Then of course, they raved about the food.  Slow cooked foods enhanced by exotic and intriguing spice mixtures seducing their palates. Upon their return, they longed to recreate these foods at home.

Over an African-themed dinner, we were enchanted by the tales of Ann and Michael’s adventures and blown away by their photographs, several of which I share with you here.   Acting as Ann’s sous chef, we prepared this delicious tagine-style chicken dish in a stove top skillet.  Making up the magical spice blends is key to capturing the essence of African cuisine.  Ann had created the spice mixture described below from spices readily available at home.    The tagine  was fragrant, perfumed by cumin, paprika, turmeric, coriander and cinnamon yet very easy to make.   The prunes and raisins plumped up in the gorgeous golden sauce.  The couscous soaked up.every.single.drop. We all moaned devouring the complex layers of flavor of the tagine while being transported to far away Africa by our friends’ enchanting tales.   An Out of Africa soirée to remember and dream about experiencing ourselves someday.

Easy Tagine Style Chicken with Prunes and Raisins  Serves 4
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed beneath the flat of your knife with the heel of your hand, discard skins
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large bite-size pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grill seasoning blend (recommended: Montreal Seasoning by McCormick) or coarse salt and coarse pepper
  • 2 medium or 1 large yellow skinned onion, quartered and sliced
  • 10 pitted prunes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 -ounce box or 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 cups good quality, low sodium chicken stock, available in paper containers on soup aisle
  • Spice blend:
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika, eyeball it
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, eyeball it
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric, eyeball it
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, a couple pinches
  • Couscous:
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups couscous
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • Directions:

    Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, in a slow stream, and add smashed garlic. Season the chicken with seasoning blend. Scatter chicken around the pan in an even layer. Cook chicken pieces 2 minutes on each side to brown, then add the onions, prunes, raisins and stock. Mix spices in a small dish and scatter over the pot. Cover and reduce to moderate heat. Cook 7 or 8 minutes, remove the lid and stir.

    To prepare the couscous, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add couscous, extra-virgin olive oil and scallions and remove the couscous from the stove immediately. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork.

    Uncover chicken and cook another 2 to 3 minutes to thicken slightly. Adjust the seasoning, to taste, and serve chicken on a bed of couscous. Garnish with chopped cilantro and scallions.  Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray

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imageimageAnn recalled fondly the many wonderful meals enjoyed on safari.  She had set an intimate table under the stars on her deck to capture the magic of those African nights for us. Serviettes were wrapped in these adorable animal napkin rings made by African women from dried banana peels.  Candle light in Moroccan-style lanterns created a magical ambiance transporting us to Africa.

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16 thoughts on “Out of Africa: Spicy Chicken Tagine

  1. This post transported me back to my own safari in Kenya about 10 years ago. It is truly an experience that will be etched in my memory forever! Where did your friends visit? One of my blog posts on my travel section is about the safari and the people of Kenya. About re-visiting a country where I grew up and how it had changed. What surprised me though was how the Indian spices were incorporated in the African cooking, it wasn’t when I lived there. Loved the animals, it is surreal getting up close and experiencing them in their natural habitat. I have similar napkin ring holders, but they are wooden. :). Love the recipe, I actually have a tagine vessel that I’ve been dying to use and haven’t yet. You’ve inspired me to set an African-themed dinner soon 🙂 Very nice!

    • What a rich and interesting life you have led Loretta! My friends went to Kenya and Tanzania on safari. They live nearby so if we manage to get together I can introduce you to them as well. Michael is in internet/cell phone start up banking in Africa and it was a lifelong dream to go on safari. Their photos are breathtaking. This Rachel Ray tagine is definitely geared for her at home audience but it was incredible and so easy. I will search for your post when I return from NYC.

      Sent from my iPhone


  2. WOW!!!!!!! What fabulous pictures and napkin rings. I’m sure that Chicken was delicious as well.
    Makes me want to go an a Safari!

  3. Wonderful…I have a Tagine that a friend from Morocco gave me and have used it for a variation of this dish with preserved lemons and saffron. I always love making it for friends even though I am vegetarian myself 🙂 Fantastic pics and narration. Thanks for sharing.

    • Learning to make preserved lemons is on my bucket list as is traveling to Morocco. Lucky you to have an authentic tagine! I know I would love the Tagine recipe you described. One reader mentioned that many of the spices in this recipe(geared to North American cooks) were Indian in origin. What spices other than saffron are in your recipe?

      Johanne Lamarche


      • The spices are similar to what you have used, Cumin, Coriander, Turmeric , Pepper, cinnamon and Cloves plus a good sprinkling of Cayennes. I also used lots of onion and garlic and then Olives and Preserved Lemons. and soaked strands of saffron…can’t go wrong with all these beautiful flavors…

  4. Johanne, what a fabulous dinner party you had! And your tagine is to die for of course…I love the photos and your story that you have shared about your friend’s trip. There really is “no frigate like a book” or a blog in this instance. Happy mid-Novermber.

    • I am humbled you were transported to Africa Teresa. Your Emily Dickinson quote led me to reread the poem and I thank you for leading me to those inspiring words. Books have been one of the greatest joys of my life as well.

      Johanne Lamarche


  5. Wow!!! It must be a fantastic trip they took. A wild trip deserves a wild audience just as much. Thank you so much for sharing their photos with all of us. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this wonderful recipe. I love those spices with chicken enhanced with multiple layers of flavours. Loveeeee

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