Moroccan chicken and meslalla olives cooked in a sauce and topped with chili

Moroccan chicken with olives Meslalla cooked M’chermel way


Chicken with meslalla and chermoula is quite a favourite family dish and I don’t think restaurants serve it back home. It’s a typical homemade dish with homemade cured olives and it’s usually cooked “M’chermel way“.
Moroccan chicken and meslalla olives cooked in a sauce and topped with chili

Moroccan chicken and meslalla olives cooked Mchermel way. Credit @Nada Kiffa

What to use instead of Meslalla?

If you can’t get hold of meslalla olives, your next option in line would be those bitter green olives which I easily find at Turkish grocery shops (here in London). You will need to crack them with a pestle and parboil them for 5 min. They will have to be pitted after that.
The other option is to look for purple olives which I guess are usually found in North African grocery shops.
On a very traditional ground, this dish would be a bit oily but oh how it tastes good.
Unlike the traditional and unbeatable way of cooking which involved being generous with oil (sometimes, this would be the secret), I like to cut on fat. That’s how I’ve seen my mother doing to keep us on track. You still enjoy the dish without feeling remorse about it.
There are to ways to make this dish. I’ll start with the traditional version and I’ll put my favourite version in a note at the bottom (which requires you make the recipe posted previously but it delivers).


Serves 4-6
Prep: 15 min – Cooking: 60 min
  • 1 chicken of 1.5 kg, cut into big pieces
  • 500 g of Meslalla olives, ready to use
  • 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium-size tomato, grated, seeds discarded
  • 3 gloves of garlic, chopped
  • 5 tbsps of parsley and coriander, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsps of oil (olive oil and vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 tsp of ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin
  • 1 tsp of turmeric
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp of cayenne or 1 whole hot chili
  • 3 tbsps of lemon juice
For garnish
  • Preserved lemon


Preparing the chicken
Clean and leave the chicken in a salty and lemony brine for a few hours. Drain.
Like most of the dishes in Moroccan cooking, it’s optional to marinate the chicken for a few hours, but if you have time, this will make this dish even more succulent. In this case, rub the chicken inside out in a paste made of all the spices and a tablespoon of water
Preparing the olives
Before using the olives, parboil them for 7-10 mins in water and lemon: add enough water to cover them and about 3 tbsps of lemon juice or 1 lemon cut in quarters. In case the olives are obviously bitter, repeat the process with a new fresh water.
Drain and pit the olives.
Using the lemon in the preservation step and boiling step keeps the
olives looking good
In a deep pot, add a couple of tablespoons of water and place over medium heat. Add the chicken, the finely chopped onion, the spices (except if you have already marinated it) and the oil. Stir and let simmer for 7 to 8 minutes while turning the chicken all around so it’s well infused with all the flavours.
Cover with water to 2/3 and add the herbs, the garlic, the tomato. Cover and let simmer for about 40 min until the sauce is halfway reduced and the chicken is cooked.
Add the olives. Let simmer for another 10-15 minutes. The sauce should be nicely reduced and thick.
Before you knock of the heat, mix in about 3 tbsps of lemon juice. Stir. .
Serving the dish
In a serving dish, place some of the sauce, then the chicken, then top with olives and more of the sauce.
Garnish with preserved lemons and a preserved chili (or one you would have cooked in the pot from the beginning).
Serve hot with a good Moroccan bread, baguette or pita.
1- I like this method where we add the already marinated olives and prepared as shown here. In this case, you don’t need to parboil them, you just add them as they are. The taste of the olives with all the spices in them bring the dish to another level of goodness.
2- You could follow the same recipe by substituting the chicken with a  whole big fish such as pandora or conger or cod.

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