Chicken with Za’atar and Lemon – and a “Thank You and Welcome”!

I’ve been reluctant to embrace Facebook or Twitter. I did set up a Facebook account but can’t figure out how to link it to my WordPress blog and vice versa. People have suggested I do this to increase readership and subscribers to the blog. But despite this, and ever so quietly, over the last few months, so many lovely new folk have been joining us either Down by the Sea or Up the Mountain. It’s been wonderful to see new comments and to hear new “voices” as well as those of old friends on the blog. So I say, thank you to you all for sticking with me and welcome to all our new friends. And any advice on the Facebook button would be gratefully accepted….

So, back to the food today.  It’s been a while since my good friend Mr Ottolenghi made an appearance (at least, recipe wise) in my kitchen. A freezer full of chicken breasts (our least favourite part of the bird and what always seems to be left until last from our chicken despatch sessions) needs to be dealt with.  “Flavour, flavour and more flavour”, I say and this easy recipe (which I adapted a little due to lack of ingredients) really did the job.

Lemon Zaatar Chicken (4)

I have given both my version and Mr O’s version below.

Ingredients (to serve 2)

  • 2 chicken breasts cut into bite sized chunks (he uses a whole chicken, jointed)
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced (2 red onions in original recipe)
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • About 2 tbsp olive oil (4 tbsp in original recipe)
  • ½ tsp all spice (1 ½ tsp in original recipe)
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon (1 tsp in original recipe)
  • 1 tbsp sumac (I didn’t have this so put ½ tsp of hot pimentón which is not at all similar but worked well – you could use lemon juice or zest for the lemony flavour of sumac)
  • 1 lemon, halved and thinly sliced
  • 200ml chicken stock or water
  • Pinch salt (1 ½ tsp in original recipe)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp za’atar (2 tbsp in original)

Mix the chicken with all the ingredients and leave to marinate for a few hours (which I did) or overnight. Bring to room temperature and cook in a hot oven in a dish which allows you to spread everything out. Mine took about 40 minutes to cook, allow longer for a whole chicken.

In the original recipe, the za’atar is sprinkled over just before cooking and it is served sprinkled with pine nuts fried in butter and chopped parsley.

Lemon Zaatar Chicken (2)

I served it with rice cooked with pepper and peas and the taste was beautiful, the chicken juicy and very similar in taste to a Spanish “pinchito” or little kebab and the lemon was sweet and caramelised. Definitely a dish to make again!

Dukkah Cream Cheese Balls

 
Delicious Dukkah and Beautiful Bottle

Since discovering you can make yogurt and cream cheese from UHT (long life) milk, my life has changed!  I´m making them both all the time now and enjoying experimenting with flavours and textures.

Sawsan over at Chef in Disguise commented that in the Middle East they would strain the cream cheese for even longer then roll it in zaatar and drizzle with olive oil.  I decided to give this a go but inadvertently used dukkah instead.  A lucky mistake!

The cheese was drained for 3 days and was pretty firm and easy to handle.  I added salt to it and then made balls about the size of small walnuts and rolled them in the dukkah. Having said that, they look the size of tennis balls in the photo!

I served them with a delicious chilled Manzanilla which comes from the area which produces most of Spain´s dry “sherries” (as we would know them), around Jerez and Cadiz.  The gorgeous bottle which you see in the photo comes from a town called Sanlúcar de Barrameda which is famous for hosting horse races on its long sandy beach during August over two weekends.  The very low tide which happens at this time of year allows the horses to thunder down the beach over a couple of evenings.

Horses racing along the shore line

Big Man and I went last year for the first time.  It´s all very exciting and the best bit for me was to see all the young children on the beach in makeshift huts which they decorate themselves, taking bets!  I´m sure it wouldn´t be allowed anywhere else, but it´s all good fun with plenty of eating and drinking going on all day before the races, and long into the night afterwards.

Kiddies taking bets!

We didn´t make a fortune, in fact we lost, but we had a fantastic time.  The photos aren´t great as it all happens so very quickly, but you get an idea of the atmosphere.

If you can´t make it to Sanlúcar, make yourself some of these tasty little appetisers, pour a glass of something cool and delicious and put the horse racing on the tv!