I love Middle Eastern food, but The Husband doesn’t appreciate The Breath afterward, so my Middle Eastern diet is often comprised of secret kebabs and copious amounts of spearmint gum when I know he won’t be around for a little while.
But I’ve now decided that he just needs to like it or lump it because I’m craving all those flavours- zesty citrus, garlic, caraway, mint, cinnamon, cumin, pine nuts, currants… He can either eat what I’m dishing up, or become acquainted with plastic-tasting TV dinners with rubbery roadkill ‘meat’ and a life of misery.
Now, I’m not pretending to be some Middle Eastern food guru, truth be told, I have only tried the Westernised basics, but having a read through some recipes, I know that all the flavour combinations of those spices definitely appeal to me.
So I’m gonna interpret the recipes my own way and adapt them to feed The Husband…cos that’s how I roll.
Now, as I usually say, I’m not a measurer (yes, I know that’s not a real word). My measurements are approximate because like my mother and her mother before her, I always repeat the mantra, “Taste as you go”…
I’d also like to apologise for my photos- They were taken in poor light and it wasn’t exactly a dish of varied colours or textures…just simple, cold evening comfort-ish food. So maybe just close your eyes and try and imagine the flavours rather than focus on the pics.
Also, I was lucky enough to have a jar of Moroccan spice-rub on hand, so used that for my chicken- if you don’t have a Moroccan spice mix, you can also use equal parts of dried turmeric, cumin seeds, caraway, chili, paprika, coriander, cinnamon and mint.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breast, cut into 6 pieces
1 orange, juiced
1/2 lemon, juiced
4 tbsp spice mix
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey, warmed
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 eggplant, chopped into 2 cm cubes
1 onion, diced
2 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 bird’s eye chili, seeds removed, chopped finely
3 tbsp sultanas/currants
2 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 cup tomato passata (or 1 large tomato, diced)
200g Basmati rice
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Start off by sprinkling your chopped eggplant with salt and sitting in a colander. This draws out the bitterness of the eggplant.
- Meanwhile, rinse rice under warm water to remove excess starch. Cook rice in boiling water until it’s about 3 minutes off being cooked perfectly.
- Mix citrus juices, spice mix, 1 tsp olive oil and chicken into a bowl and mix until chicken is well coated in spice marinade. Cover and refrigerate while you focus on the pilaf.
- Add olive oil to a large frying pan over med-high heat and cook eggplant for approx 8 minutes, until soft. Set aside in a clean bowl. In the same pan, add another lick of olive oil and cook your onion, garlic, chili, cinnamon and cumin until onion is soft and the mixture is fragrant. Add passata, tomato and pine nuts and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- When the rice is ready, drain well, then combine with fragrant onion mix. Then add eggplant and stir over low heat for a further few minutes, adding small amounts of stock to prevent it from drying out- just don’t add to much or it will turn into a mushy mess.
- Now it’s time to deal with the chicken. Heat a hot pan with a touch of olive oil and sear chicken on high heat on both sides. Then pour over remaining marinade mix, orange juice, honey and chicken stock. Cook on low to medium heat, turning frequently and basting with pan juices until the sauce has reduced to a thick consistency.
Serve the chicken atop the pilaf and pour over some of the extra sauce. You could also add a dob of yoghurt and sprinkle with chopped mint