Chicken with saffron and preserved lemon

Chicken with saffron and preserved lemon

Leiths How to Cook
Peter Cassidy


Quantity Ingredient
1 chicken, about 1.35 kg
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 onion
3 garlic cloves
small pinch ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
100ml white wine
250ml Chicken and veal stock
small pinch saffron strands, soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water
2 preserved lemons
small handful coriander
small handful parsley
1/2 lemon
12 green olives
freshly ground black pepper


  1. Joint the chicken into 8 pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large sauté pan over a gentle heat, season the chicken pieces lightly and place them in the pan skin side down in a single layer to render the fat and brown the skin. This can take up to 10 minutes and may need to be done in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Once the skin is brown and crisp, remove the chicken pieces and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, halve, peel and thinly slice the onion and sweat in the remaining oil in a small saucepan over a low heat until soft. Peel and crush the garlic.
  3. Drain off the excess oil and add the sweated onion to the sauté pan. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the turmeric, ginger, ground coriander and cumin and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Pour in the wine and reduce for 2–3 minutes, then add the stock and saffron strands with their soaking liquid and bring to a simmer. Slice the preserved lemons and add them to the pan.
  5. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, skin side up. Cover and simmer gently for 30–40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. To check, remove the pieces to a plate and cut down to the bone on the non-skin side; the juices should run clear. Heat the oven to 120°C.
  6. Trim off the knuckles and any exposed bones from the chicken and keep warm in the low oven.
  7. Taste the sauce and reduce if necessary to concentrate the flavour. Chop enough coriander and parsley leaves to give you 1 tablespoon of each. Juice the ½ lemon. Season the sauce with salt, pepper and a little lemon juice and add the olives. Serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over and sprinkled with the chopped herbs.

Preserved lemons

  • Preserved lemons are available in jars; they are also easy to make: Cut about 2 kg lemons vertically almost through into quarters, but leaving the very bottom intact. Spoon ½ tablespoon rock salt into each lemon and pack them tightly into a very large sterilised preserving jar. Seal and leave for 10–14 days. After this time, the lemons will have shrunk and released their juice. Remove the lemons from the jar, reserving a little of the juice. Pack the shrunken lemons tightly into a couple of smaller sterilised jars, then add a few star anise, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and rosemary sprigs to each. Squeeze the juice of 6 fresh lemons and divide the juice between the jars. Add about 75 ml per jar of the brined lemon juice and top up with good quality olive oil, ensuring the lemons are completely covered. Seal and allow to mature for at least 3 weeks before using. Store in the fridge and use within 6 months.
Leiths School of food and wine
cookery course
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