Sticky Moroccan chicken with aubergine and saffron and cardamom rice

We recently took a Tarty trip to Marrakech – on the hunt for tiles for our new restaurant, it couldn’t have gone better. Not only did we find the tiles that we were looking for we found everything from beautiful hand painted coffee cups, serving platters, salad bowls, candle sticks, plates, vases, hand-blown turquoise glasses, wooden boards, soup spoons and utensils made from Lemon Wood, silk rugs in every colour, it is just magical there. We got up early to potter around in the medina before it got too busy, winding through the souks coming across the Spice market, up to the textiles and turning the corner being met by the most dazzling site – the light market, thousands of sparkling lights – in silver, gold or brass. Jemima bought a hanging silver star lantern for her daughter (a little bit tricky bringing home!) as well as other fun bits and bobs. Food was very much on our minds while we were there and kindly got given many great recommendations. If you are planning a trip to Marrakech we highly recommend Nomad, Grand Café de la Poste, KechMara and El Fenn. El Fenn is also a hotel which although we didn’t stay there imagine colour and luxury on a sumptuous scale as well as housing one of the most important collections of contemporary art in Morocco! We did manage to get a reservation for supper one night where we sat in the courtyard under a canopy of palms, bougainvillea and banana trees next to a crackling fire and a plunge pool, the restaurant upstairs looks out to the snow topped Atlas mountains, can you think of anything more wonderful. The supper that night was a set menu scribbled down on a black board, starting with an array of colourful mezze dishes followed by lamb tagine and a mouth watering chicken dish. As we sat there trying to decipher what we thought had gone into the sauce the head chef came out to chat to guests so we got to ask the oracle himself – the secret is in the spices, he uses the freshest he can find, grounds them himself – in this dish he used Ras al Hanout which is the most sublime mix of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, paprika, turmeric, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, turmeric, cayenne, allspice and rose! Luckily its easy to pick up in most stores or online.


    For the Marinade

    4 – 6 chicken breasts, skin on

    2 tbsp Ras al Hanout

    2 garlic cloves, crushed

    2 tbsp olive oil

    ½ lemon

    salt and pepper


    1 onion, chopped

    3 garlic cloves, sliced

    1 fennel, halved and sliced

    1 tsp cumin seeds

    1 small aubergine

    handful of dates, pitted and chopped

    ½ glass sherry

    1500ml stock (Chicken or Veg)


    For the rice

    20g butter

    300g basmati rice

    1 cinnamon stick

    3 cardamom pods, bashed

    2 bay leaves

    pinch of saffron

    1 glass white wine

    approx. 300ml stock or water

    handful of pistachios, chopped 



1.     Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl add the chicken breasts and coat, cover and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

2.     Once chicken is marinated, take out the fridge and bring back to room temperature. Heat a large pan over a high heat, add an oil such as groundnut and place the chicken breast skin side down for a minute or so to get the skin nice and crispy, turn and brown the other side. Remove the chicken from the pan and keep to one side. Turn down the heat and add the onions, garlic and fennel and sauté for a few minutes, add the cumin seeds and aubergine and brown slightly, add the dates, sherry and stock. Place the chicken breasts back in the pan skin side up, cover with a lid and lightly simmer for 15 – 20 minutes or till cooked.

3.     To make the rice melt the butter in a pan and add the cinnamon and cardamom then add the rice and coat in the butter, cook like this for a couple of minutes – it will start to smell like popcorn, add in the white wine, bay leaves and saffron then pour in enough stock to about 1cm above the rice and simmer – this should be just about enough water to cook the rice, but taste and add more if needed, cook for about 12 – 15 minutes. Season and add the pistachios.

4.     When ready to serve sprinkle the chicken with pomegranate seeds, coriander and a dollop of yoghurt.