This was one of those dinners I set out to cook with a recipe. Yes that is correct, a recipe. Yes, even chefs use recipes believe me, but read on and you will see, as is often place in my kitchen, the whole thing can stray quickly and massively off course.
So one ingredient that was definitely happening tonight was chicken… and Jennee was really keen on cauli-cous (the blitzed faux rice or cous-cous substitute for peeps who don’t like the grain, and maybe for those amongst us who love the cauli)… and this was leading me very quickly to cooking a recipe of Middle Eastern origins.
I flicked through a few books by Greg Malouf, Yotam Ottolenghi and some other inspiring dojos of Middle Eastern cookery and found a chicken tagine recipe that was going to sort me out. I had the chicken and a few other ingredients in front of me and then bam, that’s where shit went pear shaped. One second I’m making a chicken tagine with really herby and lemony cauli-cous, next second it is chicken with garlic and spices, really herby and lemony cauli-cous, roasted kipflers potatoes and lemon and orange gravy.
No explanation – just happened. And let me tell you it’s happened before and I dare say it will happen again… damn aliens and their anal probes… um… I mean damn mind and it’s lack of ability to cognitively convey to me what the fuck it is doing.
Anyway, this is what I cooked. I’m going to call it Middle Eastern inspired chicken with garlic and spices, really herby and lemony cauli-cous, roasted kipflers potatoes and citrus gravy.
Hell of a story, I know.
MIDDLE EASTERN INSPIRED CHICKEN WITH GARLIC & SPICES, & CITRUS GRAVY (serves 4)
The citrus gravy was the winner on this day. It may strike you as being a little weird but heck, I think you’re a little weird and I don’t go on about it all day so maybe you should just give the citrus gravy a try.
1 whole chook (1.6-1.8kg), quartered, or 4 chicken marylands. Make it free-range ay
8 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon each black peppercorns and sea salt
5 bay leaves
1 long red or green chilli, sliced
2 lemons, juiced
1 orange, juiced
Kipfler potatoes roasted with olives and tomato, and herby lemony cauli-cous (recipe below) to serve
• Smash garlic, coriander seed, salt and pepper and a splash of oil together with a mortar and pestle to form a rough paste. A really rough paste. A paste that is as rough as the 42 year old “lady” at the club who is still trawling the floor when the lights come on at 3am
• Place the chicken pieces into a baking dish and rub with garlic mix. Add the bay leaves to the tray
• Place into a pre heated 180-190C oven and cook for 20 minutes
• Baste with citrus juice and add chilli. Return to oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until cooked – you can pretty easily check by cutting into a piece of chicken at the joint. Do it on the under side to keep it discreet
• Pour the juice into a saucepan and reduce over a medium heat until slightly thickened and sexy looking. Check seasoning
• Serve chicken with cauli-cous, potatoes and citrus gravy, garnished with reserved herbs and you know what? Scatter a few edible flowers around the plate too, if you have some. Half a flower garden as a garnish seems to be the trend these days… and maybe a small outdoor setting and a fishpond with a few gold fish just to complete the picture…
REALLY HERBY & LEMONY CAULI-COUS
3-4 cups cauliflower florets (from ½ large cauliflower)
½ red onion, diced finely
1 lemon, zested
2 big handfuls of mixed herbs (parsley, basil, mint, rosemary, thyme), chopped
½ cup each pistachios and almonds, chopped
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
• In 2 batches pulse cauliflower florets in food processer. Pulse is the operative word here as you do not want to let the blades of your choppy choppy mixy machine loose on the cauliflower as that is going to end in a cauliflower mush and quite probably tears. Pulse it a few time to achieve a coarse texture and everyone’s going to be happy
• Combine all ingredients except herbs
• Heat a splash of oil in a wok or large pan over a high heat. Add cauliflower mix and toss/stir for a minute or two
• Toss through most of the herbs, reserving a small handful for garnishing purposes, and check seasoning
• Serve with the chicken and potatoes that you just cooked too
NB that cauli-cous is also cracking with a nice piece of lamb, yoghurt and tahini dressing, and some fresh pomegranate