Tagine de poulet aux petits pois

This deeply flavorful Moroccan dish of garlicky chicken infused with cumin and coriander on a bed of meltingly soft peas makes a fine family supper or a festive dish for special occasions. And as we are reaching the tail end of the season for fresh peas, this is a good time to try it out. The recipe is easy but takes time as the chicken needs to marinate before going into the oven. The peas are cooked separately, and everything is combined at the end.

Tagine de poulet aux petits pois / Spicy Moroccan chicken with fresh peas

I first encountered a version of this dish at a Moroccan restaurant down the street that is fittingly called Le Tajine (the word is transliterated from the Arabic, and is alternatively spelled with a ‘g’ or a ‘j’ in France). It was springtime, and in addition to the usual menu of various tagines and couscous there was a seasonal special — tagine de pigeon aux petits pois. This I had to try, and I was not disappointed.

The next day I called the woman who runs the place to ask for the recipe. This was a few years ago, when farmed pigeons were still available at my local farmers market (which they no longer are because apparently they’ve become too expensive).

Armed with the recipe, I headed to the market and bought two large handfuls of peas in the pod. Then I bought a couple of pigeons, had them cut in half, came home and marinated them as suggested — in a sauce of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, crushed coriander seeds, salt and pepper. While the pigeon was marinating, I shelled the peas.

That’s the first stage. The second was to roast the birds and cook the peas until they were meltingly tender — which is kind of counterintuitive in that peas are more commonly served only just barely cooked these days. When the pigeon and roasting juices were combined with the peas at the end, the flavors married beautifully.

This tagine (Moroccan stew), which unlike many other tagines does not feature fruit, proved popular at home. So when pigeon disappeared from the market, I started making it with guinea fowl (pintade) or chicken. The results, while less exotic, were fine.

The tagine may be served on its own or over couscous. For a festive dinner, it could be preceded by by a Moroccan carrot salad, herbal tomato salad, chickpea salad and/or eggplant caviar. For dessert you could serve fresh seasonal fruit, a walnut-almond-orange cake or sliced oranges with star anise. A smooth red or crisp rosé would go well.

Happy cooking.

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4 Responses to Tagine de poulet aux petits pois

  1. God that sounds absolutely fabulous. Yum.

  2. Mimi Rippee says:

    Such wonderful flavors. And the peas are so pretty.

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