Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey

I’m not an expert on poetry, I can’t even claim to get immense pleasure from reading it regularly, but there are some poems that stick in my head. One such poem is “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Different lines from it seem appropriate at different times.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

That seems to be the part that resonates right now, and I wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to you all for your kind words of support and encouragement while Big Man and I deal with the highs of a wonderful year of hard work behind us, and the lows of the ill health of loved ones in the here and now.

However, life really does go on. We live, we laugh, we cry and of course, we cook and eat. Cooking soothes the soul, eating does too. Well, we all knew that didn’t we?!  Today I have another beautiful Ottolenghi recipe that is stunningly simple and simply stunning. I followed the recipe almost exactly, which is rare, and I wouldn’t change a thing. When we ate this dish, I found myself thinking what beautiful Arab flavours it contained. As I looked up the recipe again to pull this post together, Yotam Ottolenghi says that he was influenced by a recipe from Claudia Roden’s book, Tamarind and Saffron. Aha, now I need to buy that one too!

Chicken with Saffron Hazelnuts & Honey (8)

Serves 4

  • 1 large (organic, free range if possible) chicken cut into portions
  • 2 onions roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp each of ground ginger and ground cinnamon
  • A generous pinch of saffron strands (but use turmeric if you don’t have saffron)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 100g hazelnuts (actually, I did change this, he says unskinned, mine were skinned!)
  • 70g honey
  • 2 tbsp rosewater

In a large bowl mix the chicken pieces with the onions, olive oil, spices, saffron, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper and leave to marinate (from 1 hour to overnight in the fridge)

Heat the oven to 190 degrees (Gas 5). Brown the hazelnuts on an oven tray for 10 mins (I dry fried mine in a pan), cool slightly, roughly chop the nuts and set aside.

Transfer the chicken and marinade to a large tray or oven dish (you want to spread it all out) and bake for about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the honey, nuts and rose water to make a rough paste and spread it over the almost cooked chicken. Return the meat to the oven for about 10 minutes (or until cooked) and it is all golden brown.

This dish looks so beautiful (well, less so in my photo!) and is good even when cold.

Something Old, Something New – Melokhia

Don’t you just love it when you discover a new ingredient, something you’ve never come across before that just leaps out at out and says…buy me, try me, taste me! Or is it just me?  No, I didn’t think so.

Melokhia Soup (1)

The other day I popped in to see my new chum at the Caribbean shop and he had bunches of something green and leafy. It looked similar to bunches of basil which has sprouted a bit too high. It was, he informed me, Melokhia (there are many variations on the spelling) and was used a lot in Arab cooking. If you don’t like the texture of okra, he said, don’t buy it. Well, I do like okra, so I did buy it, and to be honest, I didn’t find anything slimey or slippery about it at all, it adds texture to a simple soup.

I got straight onto the phone to my oracle of Arab recipes, my mum, and she knew immediately what I was talking about and told me that she had bought it dried and made a recipe from Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. I jotted down the details to make it, and then promptly ordered the book together with another of hers Arabesque which I am now devouring slowly.

Ms Roden tells us “Melokhia is one of Egypt’s National dishes, an ancient peasant soup”. As I like to embrace my inner ancient peasant, I knew this was for me. Fear not if you can’t get hold of it, use spinach or some delicate green leafed vegetable.  I was thinking of something old, something new as this is essentially a chicken or vegetable soup recipe with the added new ingredient.  Sorry the photos don’t look that exciting, it’s not a looker, but it really wins points on flavour.

Ingredients (these are my scaled down version, the recipe calls for double)

  • 1.25 litres of chicken (or meat stock, but I think vegetable would be good too) reserve the meat if using
  • 500g of melokhia (leaves only), washed and chopped (or 60g of dried melokhia crushed and saked in hot water until doubled in size)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon of ground coriander
  • Cayenne pepper (I used pimenton)

Bring the stock to the boil and add the fresh or reconstituted melokhia and boil for 10 (fresh) or 30 (dried) minutes. Prepare a garlic sauce  by frying crushed garlic and a little salt in a small amount of oil. When the garlic is golden add the coriander and cayenne, mix to a paste and fry for a few moments longer.

Add the paste to the soup and simmer for a few minutes more.

This can be served as is or with rice. I added in the vegetables and chicken from my stock. The flavour is delicate from the Melokhia, and it was exciting to be discovering a new ingredient and rediscovering the wonderful recipes of Claudia Roden.