I signed up with a bunch of enthusiastic young bloggers who are exploring a new cuisine every month, called Chefs Across Boundaries. Here one of us selects a cuisine of the month and members pick a recipe that fits the theme and present it once they have cooked it in their own kitchens. Sometimes the dishes stick to the original and sometimes there are interpretations and tweaks; either way, it's an adventure with something unknown or deeply familiar.
For a variety of reasons I haven't been able to participate in the last few months but I was determined to complete the challenge this month no matter what cuisine was chosen. Luckily Lebanese was the flavour of the month chosen by Garima of Cafe Garima and I was quite confident that I would be able to come up with something.
As I browsed through the Internet looking at various cookery websites and blogs I was finding it difficult to settle on a recipe that was doable yet interesting, and involved at least one or two ingredients I'd never used before. I had sumac and pomegranate molasses in stock and had eagerly ordered a pack of za'atar. Most other ingredients like garlic, onions, and the commonly used whole spices are available in Indian pantries anyway - like cinnamon, black pepper, Indian bay leaves, lemons, etc.
After a few days of Googling and wandering around on Pinterest I settled on two dishes that I thought would go well together. The first involved chicken and had pomegranate molasses and za'atar among its main ingredients. The second was a simple stir fried potato with plenty of fresh coriander and lemon, not too far off from the quick aloo subzis made in households across India.
I loosely followed the chicken recipe from here and the potato stir fry recipe from this site.
It was the inclusion of ghee among the main flavours that attracted me to the Roast Chicken with Za'atar, Ghee and Pomegranate Molasses recipe. Though I didn't follow the recipe to the T I did use it as my main guideline with a couple of variations. This recipe is a keeper and I know I will make this again for sure.
Roast Chicken with Za'atar, Ghee and Pomegranate Molasses
4 full chicken legs or a whole chicken, jointed
4 Indian bay leaves (tej patta)
2 allspice leaves
5 cardamom pods
1/2 tbsp freshly crushed pepper
salt to taste
Marinate the chicken pieces in salt for 10 to 15 minutes.
In a large vessel bring the water to a boil with the spices and the chicken pieces added. Remove any scum that rises while boiling the chicken pieces. Once the chicken is cooked, in around 20 minutes, remove the chicken pieces to a baking dish draining out all the water and leaving out the whole spices too. Reserve the stock for soup or other gravies.
Lay out the chicken pieces in a single layer in your baking dish. Pour the pomegranate molasses over the chicken and mix well, but gently. Coat all sides of the pieces and then let the molasses get into the pieces leaving it to rest for around 10 minutes. Cover the dish so the chicken doesn't dry out.
Set your oven to preheat.
Baste the chicken pieces in a reasonable amount of ghee. You don't have to go overboard but be generous. The ghee lends a superb flavour to the final product. Sprinkle za'atar powder generously onto the chicken pieces and arrange again so they are all in a single layer.
Cover the dish with foil and seal. Now bake the chicken for around 15 minutes at 180C. Remove the dish carefully and take off the foil. Bake for another five to seven minutes after having turned the pieces once. Sprinkle more za'atar before you pop it in to bake again.
If you can get chicken with the skin on you will get a fabulous crackly skin and super moist flesh inside. However, covering the baking dish for the initial bake also gives great results.
I served the chicken with these very simple
Lebanese Spiced Potatoes
3 to 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, minced
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
Heat olive oil in a skillet and fry the potatoes till they are nearly cooked and have turned a beautiful golden brown. Remove to a plate. Add more olive oil to the skillet if required and heat it up. Fry the mined onion and garlic for a minute or two. Add salt, chilli powder, coriander powder and half the fresh coriander that you have chopped. Give it all a good stir and then add the potatoes. Mix well. Crack in fresh pepper generously. Let it all cook for a couple of minutes. Add a good splash of lemon juice but don't let the lemon overpower the dish. Toss well and remove to a serving dish. Garnish with the remaining fresh coriander and serve hot with the roast chicken
The next time I make these potatoes I'm going to sprinkle a hefty pinch of sumac instead of using lemon juice. I think I will prefer that.
Chefs Across Boundaries