Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes

By David Tanis

Published 2008

  • About

Saffron-scented North African–style chicken tagine is a wonderful stew, perfect for a small group, comforting on a cold night. In Tunisia and Morocco, tagine is both the name of the cooking vessel and the dish. Basically, a deep thick earthenware plate is filled with meat and vegetables or dried fruit. A high conical lid keeps the moisture in, allowing the dish to simmer, sizzle, and bake, on a propane stovetop or over hot coals. The tagine is a clever device, economical in a land where the price of fuel is high and most homes do not have ovens. Similar results can be achieved in an American oven using a wide shallow casserole or gratin dish.

This tagine can be made hours (or a day) before serving, and then is easily reheated. The recipe is easy to alter for other seasons (it’s wonderful with tomatoes in place of pumpkin).


For the Chickpeas

  • 1 pound (2 cups) dried chickpeas, picked over and soaked overnight in cold water
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • A few cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • chopped parsley

For the Tagine

  • About 4 pounds pumpkin or winter squash, seeds and membranes removed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12 large whole chicken legs (with thighs)
  • A 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly toasted and roughly ground
  • 4 large onions, diced small
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • large pinch of saffron
  • Red pepper flakes or cayenne
  • Harissa Oil


To cook the chickpeas, drain them, put in a saucepan, and cover with 3 quarts of water. Add the onion, cinnamon stick, cloves, a splash of olive oil, and a little salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently uncovered, for about an hour, or until the chickpeas are tender. Taste for salt and adjust. Leave the chickpeas to cool in the cooking liquid.

For the tagine, cut the pumpkin or winter squash into thick slices and spread them on a flat surface. Season the slices with salt and pepper.

Season the chicken legs generously with salt and pepper. Massage them with the grated ginger. Sprinkle the cumin seeds over the meat. Set the chicken aside.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the diced onions in a combination of butter and olive oil until softened. Season with salt and continue cooking until the onions are lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the sliced garlic cloves. Crumble the saffron over the onions. Stir the onions and season to taste with red pepper.

Arrange the onions in a shallow earthenware casserole (or two if necessary), then top with the pumpkin slices. Now put chicken legs over the pumpkin in one layer, skin side up. Add 3 to 4 cups of chickpea cooking liquid, barely covering the chicken.

Cover the casserole and bake for 20 minutes or so, until the liquid is bubbling briskly. Reduce the heat to 375°F and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, or until the chicken legs yield easily to a probing fork. Take the casserole from the oven and remove the chicken legs. Skim any surfacing fat with a shallow ladle.

Replace the chicken legs and return the dish to the oven, uncovered. Bake until the juices are bubbling and the chicken legs are lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Warm the chickpeas in their cooking liquid, then drain and deposit them in a warmed bowl. Swirl in a little butter, the cinnamon, and some chopped parsley.

Serve each diner a chicken leg with some pumpkin and good ladle of broth. Spoon some chickpeas over each serving. Pass a bowl of the spicy harissa oil for drizzling.