So I made this dish before I went to South Africa and completely forgot about it until now! For my birthday, a friend of mine bought me the Ottolenghi Cookbook which made me so excited and inspired about cooking. All the recipes made me drool with delight at the variety of spices and my love of combining sweet fruits and vegetables with heat. There is definitely a North African/Mediterranean background to all of the recipes in the book which made me feel at home.
I decided, the best way to thank my friend for this wonderful book would be to cook a meal from it. So inspired was I, that I went all out on this dish. I found a recipe for spiced quail that I would use with chicken legs, and a delicious squash and apricot cous cous. I decided I wanted a salad so I made a mouth burning sesame cucumber salad alongside it.
As I was cooking, I realised it was getting pretty late and everyone was hungry, so I quickly whipped up some flat breads. With the remaining squash I made a dish inspired by a local Afghan/Turkish/Lebanese fusion restaurant (Seven) down the road from our house. They have an Afghan pumpkin dip called ‘Kaddo Bowrani’, which is basically roasted pumpkin and garlic topped with yogurt. I did a little research on this and it is often served as a main course topped with beef mince as well as the yogurt. I followed Seven’s example and went for a starter option skipping out the mince to go with my flatbreads. I burnt my squash a little bit, but I don't think anyone noticed or minded. :)
The pumpkin dip came pretty close to the one they served. Ideally, it needs to be oven roasted for much longer than I cooked it for, so the flesh is soft and falling apart, which makes it easier for dipping. But for the small amount of squash I had, this was suitable. I put some sumac in the flatbread to give it some added flavour.
The cous cous itself was stunning, fruity and savoury and sweet and fresh all at the same time. It was the perfect accompaniment to the spiced chicken complimenting its spices and adding texture to the dish. The cucumber salad provided a strange mouth sensation, heat from the chilli and yet cooling from the cucumber and cruchy from the poppy seeds. There was a silence as we feasted which can only mean one thing, everyone was enjoying it!
|Watch out, those green chilis will take you by surprise!|
NB: With the multiple components in these dishes, I've had to separate out the recipes. In terms of timing though, I started marinating the chicken and then cooking the squash in the oven first, followed by making teh dough for the bread, grilling the chicken, frying the bread, preparing the cous cous and tossing the salad. Hope that helps!
Cucumber and Poppy Seed Salad
2 mild Chillies
1 tbsp white wine Vinegar
2 tbsp sunflower Oil
2 tbsp Poppy seeds
2 tbsp caster Sugar
Salt & Pepper
Slice the cucumber into quarters lengthways then into 2 inch strips on a vertical angle. Toss everything else together and refrigerate until required.
4 pieces of Chicken (I used thighs and drumsticks)
1 tbsp ground Cinnamon
2 tbsp ground Cumin
10 whole Cardamom pods
4 Pimento berries
1 tbsp ground Tumeric
1/2 tbsp Paprika
4 cloves of Garlic
2 knobs of Ginger
2 tbsp Honey
1 1/2 tbsp Olive oil
Get a pestle and mortar to grind all the dry spices to a fine powder. The recipe in the book actually says to use an electronic spice grinder for the best results, but I don't have one of those so I hand ground them. The finer you ground them though, the smoother your final paste will be.
Mince your garlic and grate your ginger. Add these along with the salt and honey to your spices and mix well to form a paste. Then whisk in the olive oil. Coat your chicken well in the marinade and leave covered in cling film in the fridge for a few hours.
When you're ready to cook the chicken, set your grill on high and grill on each side of 15 minutes or until cooked for the thicker pieces.
Apricot and Squash Cous Cous
1 large Onion
6 tbsp Olive oil
handful of dried Apricots, roughly chopped
1 cup cous cous (1/4 cup per person)
pinch of Saffron
3 tbsp chopped Tarragon
3 tbsp chopped Mint
3 tbsp chopped Parsley
1 1/2 tbsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 Lemon, zest only
Salt & Pepper
Start by pre-heating the oven to 180 degrees. Peel, deseed and chop your squash into small bite sized chunks. Toss onto an overproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven until tender, which normally takes roughly 30 minutes depending on the type of squash used.
Heat enough chicken stock to cover your cous cous and drop the saffron in there to soak in the water. When the stock has reached boiling point, pour in the cous cous, turn off the heat and cover the pan with a damp kitchen towel until the water has been absorbed.
While you are waiting for the cous cous, slice your onions into thin strips and pan fry until translucent in a bit of olive oil (I used butter). When the squash and cous cous are ready toss them into a large bowl with the onions, herbs, cinnamon, drizzle of olive oil, lemon zest, apricots and salt and pepper if required.
Flatbread and Afghan Squash Dip
3 cloves of Garlic
1 tbsp Sumac
1 cup of Flour
1 tbsp cooking Oil
plain Yoghurt to top
Prepare the squash in the same way as above, but heat oven to 160 degrees and cook for 1.5 hours. Toss whole cloves of garlic with their peel still on in the oven and drizzle everything with honey rather than oil. What you want is for the squash to slowly disintegrate releasing it's own sweet flavours.
While you're waiting for the squash to cook, prepare the flatbreads. Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the cooking oil, salt and sumac and mix together. Slowly add cold water 1 tbsp at a time to bring all the dry ingredients together to form a dough. You want the dough to be elastic and therefore slightly moist, but not too moist so it sticks to your fingers. Knead the dough for 5 minutes then set to rest for a bit.
When the squash is cooked, take them out of the oven and don't discard the garlic cloves. Squeeze the garlic pulp onto the squash and mash together with a fork. Top with a couple of tablespoons of the yoghurt. Heat a frying pan, break apart 1/2 inch round pieces of the dough and roll out into a flattened circle roughly 7 inches in diameter. If your dough was moist enough when you made it, you'll find the dough's shape will shrink after rolling. Pop the flattened dough in the frying pan and dry fry for roughly 1-2 minutes on each side. Set to one side.
When you're done, lay every dish out on a table a feast!