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A Seaside Dinner Party + Tagine Recipe

Culinary Capers catered this casual but chic outdoor dinner party at the seaside home of designer Ami McKay of Pure Design. The party was featured in the Vancouver Sun, where Chef Stewart Boyles shared his top tips on summer entertaining.

Ami McKay by Janis Nicolay

Read on for more on his top tips and his favourite Chicken Tagine Recipe.

What are some dishes that work well for outdoor patio parties? 

It is always a good idea when dining outdoors to select dishes that eat well either hot or cold.  Examples would be baked steelhead or summer salads that incorporate seasonal ingredients like green beans and artichoke. Draw inspiration from street food for canapés that can be both set out and butler passed, for this party we did mini arepas with smoked pork and avocado.

Pork Arepas, photo by Janis Nicolay

Green Beans and Artichoke. Photo by Janis Nicolay

Any tips on dessert ideas?

It is always nice to serve something refreshing and light when dining al fresco.  Finish your meal with something that’s not too rich; citrus or local berries would always be my choice.  For this event, we prepared an orange blossom panna cotta, layered with an orange gelée.  The finishing touch of a cardamom spiced mini donut made it a real crowd pleaser.

Orange Blossom Panna Cotta. Photo by Janis Nicolay

Lastly, what’s the biggest mistake you think home chefs make when planning for an outdoor party or event? 

Trying to do too much preparation at the last minute on the day of the meal.  There is nothing worse than scrambling to prepare overly complicated dishes while your guests are enjoying the evening.  Make sure you are not the caterer for the night, sit down and enjoy some food with your friends .



Tagine Recipe

Serves 8-10


Note: Select a tagine that is meant for open flame and not just decorative.


12          chicken thighs (3-4 lbs), bone-in skin on

2            medium white onions, sliced

½ cup   blanched almonds, rough chopped

1.5 cup chicken stock

1 cup    dried apricots, halved

2 cups  fresh tomatoes, diced

1 cup    green olives, pitted

¼ cup   butter



3 Campari tomatoes sliced into wedges and fresh cilantro


Spice Paste


1½ tsp     whole black pepper

1½ tsp     paprika

1 tsp        cumin seed

1 pinch   saffron

1½ tsp     turmeric

2 tsp        minced garlic

¼ cup      olive oil


Grind the spices together and reserve 1/3 for cooking with the onions.

Rub the remaining spices on the chicken skin, then mix the chicken thighs with the garlic and olive oil. Marinate overnight (or at least 2 hours).

To prepare the tagine, heat a heavy pan over medium heat. Season the underside of the chicken skin well with salt. Add a small amount of vegetable oil to the preheated pan and place all the thighs skin side down. Pour the remaining marinade over top and increase the heat to medium high to let the skin slowly render and brown. Turn the thighs over for a quick sear then remove from the pan and set aside. Reserve some of the flavorful chicken fat from the pan.

Add the butter and a few spoons of the rendered fat to the tagine and put on medium heat. Once the fat has melted, add the remainder of the spices and the onions. Cook till tender, add the apricots, tomatoes, almonds and olives. Continue cooking until the tomatoes begin to break down, add half of the chicken stock and reduce till thick, then add the remainder of the stock and place the chicken thighs evenly over the onions. Baste the thighs with the sauce and cover the tagine with the lid, reducing the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 1.5 hours, checking occasionally. The chicken should be tender and falling off the bone.

Garnish with fresh herbs and tomatoes just before serving.

If you wish, the tagine may be cooled down and served the next day by slowly reheating on the stove.



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