Saffron and Lemon Chicken


Seems I’ve been a bit slack in posting about food of late. Truth be told I’ve not really been making anything particularly exciting.

This weekend saw Freya and myself celebrate our first wedding anniversary and preparations for various festivities got in the way of normal cooking habits.

After a pretty hectic weekend – which saw a large number of us complete the marathon 26 pub Monopoly Board Pub Crawl – I settled back into normality with this very tasty dish from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour.

This dish has relatively few ingredients, and does benefit from a long marinade, the longer you leave it the better it will get. That said, the first batch I grilled was excellent after just 1 hour of marinating.

In a bowl you slice 4 white onions, and add to it the juice of 5 lemons, greek yoghurt, turmeric, quite a bit of sea salt, and some saffron which has been infused with water for 10 minutes or so. Give the whole thing a good mix, add the diced chicken breast and leave in the fridge for as long as you can.

Like I said, I cooked up our first batch after an hour but I think we’ll be eating this for a couple more days – so I’ll let you know if it starts tasting better.

The marinade breaks down the chicken beautifully and it tastes so tender after just 15 minutes under the grill.

I served this with a very nice radish salad and a naan bread – and it was a spot on dinner.

I’ll certainly be making this again – it could be one of my go-to dishes when I want to impress – because impressive it is – and very very simple.

Shawarma Chicken with Warm Chickpea Purée and Sumac Onions

We seem to be eating rather a lot of chicken lately!

This dish is from A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry. I finally bought my own copy having borrowed my Mother-in-Laws one last year.

In some respects it isn’t dissimilar to the Jamie Oliver dish I made from 15 minute meals. It just has a little more care and attention. They both end up pan frying chicken at a high heat very quickly.

I mostly ignore the treatment that chicken requires when cooking. If it says boneless chicken thighs I tend to just leave the skin on and leave the bone in – speed over appearance – but for a change I decided to out my Global knives to good use and bone and skin the chicken. It’s pretty easy with the right tools so I will put in the effort from now on.

The prepped chicken is marinated in garlic, lemon juice, cumin, turmeric and mixed spice for several hours.  The purée is made from cooked onion, garlic, cumin and mixed spice- to which you add your chickpeas and blend until smooth with some tahini, lemon juice and olive oil.

For once I found my Nutribullet to be a little irritating when pureeing. It isn’t very good at blitzing a lot of something – especially when it is thick. It is also incredibly difficult to get out of the container when you are done. I think a stick blender would have been better; I may even take a punt on something a bit more upmarket like a Vitamix or a Thermomix.

The sumac onions are simply some crisped up  red onions with sumac sprinkled on top. I crisped mine up on a bed of ice – but it suggests just using cold water.

When you’re ready to easy get your pan really hot and pan fry the chicken – a couple of minutes on each side – and serve with the chickpea puree and the onions.

This dish is very nice. The warm chickpea purée isn’t far off being a hummus and goes really well with the spices that marinade the chicken.

I served mine with pitta bread but I think it was largely unnecessary. We ate quite late and it was a struggle to finish it.  I also added a mint, radish and lettuce salad and a blob of yoghurt just to use up some salad I had in the fridge.

It’s film club tonight – and we are watching Ex-Machina. I made extra so we have an enviable snack for later.

I’ll certainly made this again – especially for the puree. It’s amazing.

Chicken Fatteh

First rule of cooking. Check how long something will take to cook before you start making it. That was my mistake last night – but hey it was good – it was just a late dinner. 

This feast of a recipe is from A Bird In The Hand by Diana Henry. The second dish I’ve made from the book.  I did say all her recipes were simple. This one is simple too – it’s just time consuming as there are many elements to the dish. I think it took me two hours to bring this to the table – but when I did it looked very inviting and comforting.

There are many components to this dish:

  • a tomato sauce
  • the chicken
  • a chicken stock reduction
  • the rice
  • crispy pitta breads
  • spiced aubergines
  • a garlic yoghurt
  • a dressing of nuts and pomegranate seeds

Each component takes a bit of time – and I’m sure with a bigger kitchen and more oven and hob space I could have done many of the elements concurrently. Sadly our tiny galley kitchen on the boat and a small oven/microwave combo can’t really cope and things have to be done one at a time.

This didn’t really matter – we weren’t that hungry and we were ploughing our way through this seasons Australian Masterchef. This season is currently showing in Australia – and I have the means to acquire the episodes. I guess you’ll have to wait if you’re in the UK. It’s very inspiring. Makes me want to move to Australia and get on the show – and use such amazing produce. They have things you just don’t get in the UK like Pigface, Marron and Abalone! They also have the weather – how could you turn that down!

Anyway, as I said before, each of these components are pretty easy to make, just time consuming.

The tomato sauce just needs to cook down to make it really rich and sweet – cut that corner and you’ll spoil the dish. Most people don’t cook tomato sauces for long enough and the full flavour of the tomatoes doesn’t come out. I think mine was cooking down uncovered for 40 minutes.

The chicken is rolled in olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and cloves and oven roasted for 80-90 minutes – but once it’s in it’s in and you can forget about it. When it’s ready you take it out of the oven and leave it to rest under some foil for 30 minutes. By serving time it is so tender it just falls off the bone. I used thighs and drumsticks. I think the darker meat is the better solution here. I imagine 90 minutes of roasting on a breast would really make it dry.

When the chicken is done you scrape the pan down with some water and reduce it to half its volume to get a really nice chicken gravy

The basmati rice is added to some onions that you have previously fried to golden with some butter, more cumin and more cinnamon. You then cook it in chicken stock until it is light and fluffy. The rice was perfectly cooked when it was ready and beautifully fragrant and subtly spicy.

The crispy pitta breads were simply brushed in melted butter and baked in the oven until they were crispy.

The aubergines were fried golden in olive oil with cumin and chilli flakes pressed into the surface. When they are ready you squeeze lemon juice over them. These were great – they’d be great on their own for sure.

The yoghurt was simply greek yoghurt with garlic stirred through and the topping was pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.

You assemble the whole dish in layers of rice, tomato sauce, chicken, coriander and parsley, the gravy, the yogurt and the bread and just keep building it up until it’s all in the serving dish. Finally top with the nuts and seeds.

It was huge. I think I should have realised that it served 8-10 people before I made it! Fortunately I was reserved and only served up two portions.

The rest – well that’s dinner for a few days for sure. But that’s one meal of leftovers I really look forward to eating again.

Would I change anything – probably not. But you could easily leave out the chicken and make this as a salad for a BBQ. You could also probably substitute the chicken for feta or halloumi and make it vegetarian and just run either of those through the salad when you are building up your layers.

This dish is definitely a keeper – I’ll be sure to make this again.

Mexican Griddled Chicken, Sweet Potato and Avocado Salad with Chipotle Mayo

This amazingly tasty dish comes from Diana Henry’s – A Bird In the Hand.  Her style of cooking and the simplicity of her recipes should be a winner for most people that don’t want to slave over meals.

I really like this book.  There was isn’t a thing in it I wouldn’t eat and it is far superior to every other chicken book I’ve ever seen. She also published A Change of Appetite – which I’ve cooked from many times.

This dish combines sweet potatoes, quinoa, avocado and a chipotle Mayo that is to die for – and of course the chicken. The sweet potatoes are phenomenal – they are roasted and then griddle fried with chilli flakes and cumin seeds pressed into them. Amazingly smoky!

It took a while to make and in hindsight I should have marinated the chicken for a lot longer than I did. I only left it an hour but I think the four hours recommended in the book is more reasonable. Even overnight might be better given how basic the marinade is; it only has lime juice, garlic, a small amount of ground cumin and oil.

This could so easily become a vegetarian salad by swapping out the chicken for Halloumi or maybe even just leaving it out. It would be a great companion to a BBQ.

There are many components to this dish but they are all very achievable; perhaps the Mayo will be a challenge for anyone that doesn’t have a stick blender as to need to add the oil gradually so that the Mayo emulsified. Mine split a little – but i didn’t affect the taste.

The only thing I changed in this recipe was leaving the chicken thighs whole with the bone in. This was more through oversight than choice. When I make it again – I which I will – I’ll remove the bone and slice the chicken into the salad. It’ll be a more enjoyable eat this way I think.

I might even consider preparing the chicken with a ras el hanout marinade as I think a punchier chicken might bring more to the dish.

Ras El Hanout Chicken Wraps

Ras el Hanout Chicken Wraps

If there’s one spice (in fact spice mix) associated with Morocco it is Ras el Hanout. Take a walk down any market street in Marrakech or Essaouria and you’ll struggle to walk 10 yards without seeing someone selling it. They’ll tell you that theirs is better than the guy next to him because of x y z or the alignment of the stars. Every one of the sellers say it is a blend of 35 spices – but I think it’s more likely to be 10.

Truth be told I didn’t buy any in Morocco. I have plenty and I simply didn’t trust the sellers. We were ripped off enough times for me to just rest assured that I can get perfectly good stuff at home and probably for half the price.

We eat wraps a lot. Mainly on gym days. After a 90 minute drive home from work and a 90 minute plus gym session its just too late to start cooking. So unless you’ve got leftovers, wraps are a great alternative.

Typically our wraps are salad and grilled halloumi, but I stumbled across this recipe in Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour so I decided to try something different.

Like most things in this book it’s pretty easy. You create a paste with the ras el hanout and some olive oil, then smear it all over some chicken strips. I did mine in a plastic freezer bag as you can squish all the paste into all the surfaces of the chicken and it doesn’t stink out your fridge while you leave it to marinate.

The book recommends leaving the chicken to marinate overnight (I’ve done this subsequently and it does make a big difference) but on the first occasion I left it less than an hour – I was hungry!

While your chicken is marinating, make the yoghurt dressing by simply mixing chopped mint, greek yoghurt, black pepper and sumac.

Sumac is amazing. It lifts everything. Its a ground berry from the Rhus plant – and it tastes fantanstic. Sprinkle it on bland looking stuff and it’ll make it look pretty too!

When you’re ready to eat, fry off the chicken until it’s springy and when it’s done let it rest for a few minutes on a board.

Then simply construct the wraps with some rocket leaves (or spinach like I did), the chicken, some sliced red onion, the yoghurt dressing, some pomegranate molasses and some pomegranate seeds.

You won’t eat a better wrap. It’s good if you can dry fry the wraps first to warm them through – your filling will stay warmer for longer and it’ll be easier to wrap the wrap!

I really love these. And I make them all the time. It’s why you don’t see me blogging much these days – too many of these awesome wraps!