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Originating from Syria, this dish epitomizes simplicity intertwined with exotic aromas. Crafted from commonplace ingredients, its preparation requires a mere 15 minutes before it’s ready to be placed in the oven. Personally, I find delight in pairing this Syrian Chicken with Giant Couscous; however, your choices aren’t limited – it pairs wonderfully with regular couscous, pasta, rice, polenta, or even mashed potatoes.

Syrian Chicken
nomnomwow.com Syrian Chicken


My blog posts are generally filled with optimism and cheerfulness. However, I cannot share a Syrian dish without acknowledging the ongoing unrest in Syria. The country has been embroiled in a civil war for nearly four years, a situation that brings immense suffering to its innocent inhabitants. More than a quarter of Syria’s population – a staggering 4 million people – have been compelled to flee their homes in search of safety within neighboring nations. The most heart-wrenching aspect is that over half of these refugees are children. It’s a stark reminder to reflect on your own childhood and then to consider the unimaginable challenges millions of Syrian children face at this very moment. This perspective is truly humbling.

To extend support, UNICEF has launched a Syrian Crisis Appeal, offering an avenue for donations to aid the children of Syria. You can access the donation page through this link.

Now, let’s transition to a more uplifting subject. Syria is a nation nestled between the Mediterranean and the Middle East, giving rise to a delightful fusion of two of my favorite cuisines. Syrian culinary creations often feature spices that resonate with Middle Eastern flavors, such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon. These flavors also draw parallels to the vibrant cuisines of neighboring Mediterranean countries like Turkey.

If you have a penchant for bold, Arabic-inspired dishes, this recipe is bound to captivate your taste buds. The chicken is seared with an aromatic blend of cumin, coriander, and turmeric, then baked with a chili-infused tomato sauce. It’s a symphony of flavors served atop Giant Couscous, which has the same taste as regular couscous but with an intriguing twist – they’re delightfully large!

While Giant Couscous is officially known as Moghrabieh, Israeli, or Pearl Couscous, I’ve playfully dubbed them Giant Couscous since my initial encounter. And old habits die hard! Giant Couscous is a staple in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, fashioned from wheat flour or semolina. Its versatility allows it to be used just like pasta or rice, and it’s cooked similarly to pasta. In Australia, you can conveniently find it in major supermarkets within the pasta section, adjacent to regular couscous.

In case you can’t locate Giant Couscous, a worthy substitute is risoni (orzo), a pasta that resembles rice. Other pasta shapes or rice can also step in. However, I strongly encourage you to give Giant Couscous a try. They’re a delightful novelty! These slippery pasta pearls are the ideal vessel for scooping up the rich sauce. I’m eager to hear your thoughts! As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below, and I’ll be more than happy to provide answers.

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Syrian Chicken

Syrian Chicken

maimoona
Originating from Syria, this dish epitomizes simplicity intertwined with exotic aromas. Crafted from commonplace ingredients, its preparation requires a mere 15 minutes before it's ready to be placed in the oven. Personally, I find delight in pairing this Syrian Chicken with Giant Couscous; however, your choices aren't limited – it pairs wonderfully with regular couscous, pasta, rice, polenta, or even mashed potatoes.
prep time
10 mins
cooking time
20 mins
servings
2
total time
30 mins

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 lb / 1 kg chicken thigh fillets , bone in and skin on (4 to 5 pieces) (see notes)

  • CHICKEN SPICES

  • 1 tsp cumin powder

  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder

  • 1 tsp salt

  • Black pepper

  • SAUCE

  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger , finely chopped

  • 3 garlic cloves , minced

  • 1 onion , halved and finely sliced

  • 2 birds eye chilis , finely chopped (or to taste) (see notes)

  • 1/4 cup (combined) mint and coriander leaves, roughly chopped

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

  • 14 oz / 400 g canned crushed tomato

  • 1 cup chicken stock / broth

  • 1/8 tsp saffron powder (see notes)

  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder

  • 3 sprigs of thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves

  • 1/4 cup dried currants or sultanas (optional) (see notes)

  • TO SERVE

  • 8 oz / 250 g giant couscous (Israeli or Pearl Couscous)

  • Yoghurt (optional)

Instructions

1
Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).
2
Arrange the chicken pieces on a plate or in a spacious bowl. Generously sprinkle the Chicken Spices over them, ensuring each piece is thoroughly coated by gently massaging the spices with your hands.
3
Place a large ovenproof frying pan over high heat and warm up the olive oil until it shimmers. Carefully add the chicken to the pan, skin side down, allowing it to sear until the skin achieves a beautifully browned appearance. Flip the chicken over and repeat the process for the other side. Once done, transfer the seared chicken from the pan and set it aside. If there's an excess of oil in the pan, drain it.
4
Now, introduce the onion, garlic, ginger, and chili to the same pan. Sauté these ingredients for about 2 minutes, or until the onion turns translucent and starts to take on a gentle golden hue.
5
Incorporate the canned tomato, chicken stock or broth, saffron powder, cumin powder, and thyme into the pan. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, and then switch off the stovetop heat. Carefully nestle the seared chicken into the tomato-infused broth. Cover the pan securely with either foil or a lid, and transfer it to the preheated oven. Allow it to bake for roughly 25 to 35 minutes.
6
During this time, follow the packet instructions to cook the Giant Couscous. Typically, boiling it in salted water for around 4 minutes suffices; then, drain it thoroughly.
7
Once the chicken emerges from the oven, adorned with a deep golden-brown hue, and is fully cooked, retrieve it. Gently stir in the dried currants if you're opting to use them, along with lemon juice and half of the mint and coriander. Sprinkle the remaining mint and coriander over the dish.
8
To serve, arrange the flavorful chicken on a bed of Giant Couscous. For an extra touch, add a dollop of yogurt if desired.

Notes

I strongly recommend opting for skin-on, bone-in chicken thigh fillets for this recipe. While I understand that this choice may not be as health-conscious as using skinless meat, and bone-in cuts may require a bit more effort to consume, the crispy skin is undoubtedly a standout feature of this dish. Moreover, bone-in meat consistently offers a juicier outcome. If you don't have access to birds eye chili, you can easily substitute it with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of chili powder, adjusting the quantity according to your personal preference for spiciness. Giant Couscous, also recognized as Moghrabieh, Israeli, or Pearl Couscous, can usually be found in the pasta section of most major supermarkets, typically located alongside regular couscous. Should you be unable to acquire it, ordinary couscous, pasta (like risoni/orzo), rice, polenta, or even mashed potatoes can serve as substitutes. While the authentic approach involves saffron threads, I utilize saffron powder due to the substantial expense associated with saffron threads (it holds the title of the world's most costly spice!). In case saffron threads aren't accessible, a pinch of saffron powder can be used as a substitute. I've left the inclusion of currants/sultanas as an optional component. Personally, I don't have a strong preference for dried fruit in savory dishes, and I believe this particular dish boasts such robust flavors that the addition of currants/sultanas isn't essential. Nevertheless, it's worth noting that the traditional Syrian preparation does incorporate currants. Nutritional information provided per serving. Nutritional breakdown for Syrian Chicken with Giant Couscous
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