Tag Archives: middle eastern

Chargrilled Chicken with Za’atar and Roasted Spiced Vegetables

Carrying on our Middle Eastern obsession we have another really simple dinner of griddled chicken with roasted vegetables and cous cous. This is quite similar to our za’atar steak recipe and is a great healthy yet filling option. It manages to be comforting enough for winter yet light enough for summer – these chicken breasts would be incredible cooked on a barbecue. This would also be delicious in a lunchbox or taken for a picnic, what a versatile dinner! You’ll see in the photos that we have 2 trays of vegetables – this was because we had veg to use up but in the ingredients we’ve given what should be enough for two people just to go with the dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 aubergine, chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 1 courgette, chopped into 2cm cubes/rings
  • 1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • 2 peppers, sliced into 3cm pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 heaped tsp ras el hanout
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 heaped tsp za’atar
  • Cous cous
  • Salt

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place your vegetables in a roasting dish and coat with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the ras el hanout and a good pinch of sea salt. Toss the vegetables to coat them all in the oil and spices and then whack in the oven. These will take around 45 minutes to an hour to become perfectly soft and slightly charred around the edges. Stir them every 15 minutes or so and after around half an hour shake over the pomegranate molasses for the last part of cooking.

Roasted Moroccan Veg

For the chicken place the breasts between cling film, one at a time. Use the base of a large pan to bash them out until they are about 3cm thick and an even thickness all over. Once they’re both done heat up a griddle pan. Coat the breasts with a little olive oil and once the griddle pan is nice and hot place the chicken on. Let it cook on the first side for about 1 minute so that it can start charring and then turn over. On the side that you have already started to cook and is now facing up, sprinkle half of the za’atar so it coats the chicken. After 1 minute on the other side flip the chicken over again and sprinkle the rest of the za’atar on the other side. The chicken should take about 4 minutes on each side to cook so just keep an eye on it and turn it occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick. The sesame seeds in the za’atar should become lovely and toasted during this time… it smells amazing!

Chicken za'atar

Just before you’re ready to serve make some cous cous by placing it in a bowl, covering with boiling water (to about 1cm above the cous cous) and covering the bowl tightly with cling film. Leave it for about five minutes and you should have perfectly fluffy cous cous! Fluff it up with a fork and season with salt. Whack the whole lot on a warmed plate and you’re done! We sliced our chicken up before serving but that’s up to you – whatever you prefer.

Za'atar chicken done

This was lovely hot but would also be great cold – you could mix the vegetables into the cous cous and serve with the sliced chicken for a mid-week lunch to make your colleagues jealous!

Moroccan-style Spiced Vegetable Stew with Maneesh

We had originally planned to make this Moroccan-style roasted vegetable traybake and serve it with cous cous but Bird found herself with a bit of time on her hands. After a flick through Paul Hollywood’s “Bread” she decided to give Maneesh a go. Maneesh is a Middle Eastern flatbread topped with sesame seeds and herbs – basically a za’atar mixture which we’ve used previously with steak. Paul’s recipe can be found here.

The dough was really stretchy and sticky – very fun to work with!  We made half the amount in Paul’s book, he said his made 3 large maneesh but we managed to get 2 pretty huge breads out of half of the mixture. The vegetables were ridiculously simple – a mixture of bite-sized pieces of Mediterranean vegetables, roasted until slightly charred then smothered in chopped tomatoes, mixed with chickpeas and roasted for a further few minutes – often the simplest things are the best. This made a beautifully hearty dinner with enough vegetables left over for 2 lunches. It was lovely on it’s own but would be great with some meat, fish or cheese or could form one of many mezze courses to be enjoyed with friends!

Ingredients for 2 large maneesh

  • 250 g strong white flour
  • 5 g salt
  • 12 g caster sugar
  • 5 g instant yeast
  • 10 ml olive oil, plus extra for kneading and another 1bsp to make the za’atar paste
  • 180 ml tepid water
  • 2 heaped tbsp za’atar

You make this like a fairly standard bread dough. Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast (adding the salt and yeast to opposite sides of the bowl at first), then add in 10 ml of olive oil and most of the water – you don’t need to bother rubbing in the olive oil like a regular loaf. Mix all of this together until you have a soft, smooth dough, adding the rest of the water slowly as needed. We used pretty much all of the water but you may not need to. Once it has come together tip onto an oiled surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until really soft and elastic. Place it in an oiled bowl and cover with cling film to rise, it needs to at least double in size – ours took just over an hour near a warm radiator.

Maneesh with za'atar

Once it’s risen tip it out onto an oiled surface again and knock back, fold it on itself and make sure all of the air is out. Once done split the dough into two. Roll each piece into a ball and then roll out with a rolling pin to form a large roughly circular shape. Put onto a baking sheet lined with oiled greaseproof paper. Now mix together the za’atar with enough oil to form a thick paste and smear onto the maneesh, leaving a small border around the edge. Pre-heat the oven to 210°C (Paul says 230 but we found this a bit hot) and leave the maneesh to rest for 20-30 minutes while the oven comes to temperature. When the oven is ready pop the bread in, we did ours one at a time as they cook best on the middle shelf. They take about 10-15 minutes to cook, when they’re golden-brown they’re ready! Leave to cool, turn the oven down to 180°C and start chopping your vegetables…

Cooked Maneesh

Ingredients for vegetable stew

  • A selection of chopped vegetables, we used 1 aubergine, 2 peppers, 2 courgettes, 1 large carrot, 1 red onion, all cut into bite-sized pieces with the carrots chopped slightly smaller as they take longer to cook
  • 1 tbsp ras el hanout
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes – optional
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 1-2 tsp pomegranate molasses – optional

Place all of the chopped vegetables in a large roasting dish and coat with the ras el hanout, sea salt, oil and chilli flakes (if using). Place in a preheated oven at 180°C. The whole dish will take about 1 hour to make, check on the vegetables every 15-20 minutes to move them around. After around 50 minutes they should be getting slightly charred and very soft so tip in the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and the pomegranate molasses. Cook for a further 10 minutes and it’s ready!

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

We cut our maneesh in half, served the spicy vegetable stew on half and placed the other half on top for dipping. This was a real success and the maneesh made it feel a lot fancier than it was – give it a try!

Maneesh and vegetable stew

Za’atar Steak with Spicy Sumac Roasted Vegetables

Bird has a bit of a problem. It’s the reason our spice cupboard (yes, we have a whole cupboard) is the biggest mess you’ve ever seen. It’s an obsessive need to buy any interesting spice that she’s heard of, or one that she hasn’t, that we don’t currently own. This time resulted in za’atar and sumac cluttering up our kitchen. These are both widely used in Middle Eastern and North African cooking – sumac is a beautiful deep red/purple course powder made of crushed, dried fruits which, despite their fiery colouring have no heat, just a beautiful lemony tang. Lebanese style Za’atar contains sumac along with some earthy freshness from thyme and oregano, aniseed sweetness from fennel and rich creaminess from toasted sesame seeds. Za’atar can come in many guises, this is just the blend of ours, have a look and see what you can find!

Sumac
Sumac

We also had a craving for steak and thought it would be fun to try our new spices on some lovely rib eye steaks. It’s most unusual for us to not have any chilli in things so we put a little in with the vegetables and then smothered the steaks in za’atar and oil and popped them on a really hot griddle pan for just a few seconds a side. This is a brilliant meal for those who love their aromatic spices but don’t get on so well with chilli as you could leave it out entirely and still have a burst of gorgeous spices. It’s also incredibly flexible, these spices are slightly mellower than many we use so would go with mild fish, vegetables or white meat right through to steak like we did.

Ingredients

  • mixed vegetables which are great for roasting – we used an aubergine, some peppers, red onion and mushrooms
  • 1 heaped tsp of sumac
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • vine tomatoes
  • 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 steaks
  • 1 tbsp of za’atar
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • flatbreads/pitta breads to serve

Bit of a non-recipe really… preheat the oven to 190°C. Chop up all of the vegetables apart from the tomatoes into bite sized chunks and mix with the sumac, the chilli flakes if using, the sea salt and the olive oil in a large roasting dish and whack them in the oven. They will take about 45 minutes to roast and need a shake around every 15 minutes or so. Mix the za’atar with the extra virgin olive oil to form a paste and smear all over the steaks to briefly marinate. After nearly half an hour of the vegetables roasting add in the vine tomatoes. Then after a further 10 minutes add the pomegranate molasses to add some tangy sweetness.

Sumac vegetables

Now is the time to get your griddle pan super hot and then stick the steaks on, we did ours for less than a minute a side because we love ours really rare but just turn the heat under the griddle down a little and cook it for longer. Make sure you scrape all of the toasted herbs and seeds onto the steak, the sesame seeds are gorgeous! Serve with the vegetables and some warmed flatbreads or pittas (and a cheeky glass of wine!).

Steak with vegetables

Pomegranate – Brighton

Hello! Sorry for the erratic posting lately, we’ve had a string of crazy weekends and life has been a little bit all over the place in the Fats & Bird bubble. However this coming weekend we finally, finally have a weekend to ourselves, and we don’t have to get on another train until October 31st! Words can’t express my excitement at this prospect. Anyway, back to the weekend just gone, we went to see Bird’s parents in Brighton – we haven’t been since June and a visit was long overdue.

Before we left Bristol we stopped for lunch at Friska which is a Bristol mini-chain of cafes producing incredible fresh food with punchy flavours at great prices and they’re pretty ethically fab too. We both plumped for the chicken pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) which was delicious – it had a really strong stock, and it was spicy and fragrant with perfect noodles and big chunks of juicy chicken. Just what we needed to freshen up before a train journey! Four hours later we arrived in Brighton and after a few hours of catching up settled down to a Mumma Bird roast dinner. Now she can really cook a roast dinner! One day we’ll be able to get it down to such a fine art.

On Saturday night we went out for dinner in Brighton, which was something of a rare treat. We don’t get to visit as much as we would like, and Daddy Bird isn’t that keen on going out, meaning that Fats had never eaten out in Brighton with the Bird clan! We went to Pomegranate which is a contemporary Middle Eastern restaurant right in Kemptown in the centre of Brighton, easy walking distance from Bird’s house. The Birds had been before, nearly 6 years previously for Bird’s 18th birthday and though the memories are a little hazy they are good ones. After dithering at the expansive menu we decided on some starters to share. We had two lots of Turkish sausage, one of baba ganoush with sliced pitta bread and one of stuffed vine leaves. The baba ganoush was smoky and creamy, the vine leaves were tangy and lightly spiced and the spicy Turkish sausage was beautiful – sliced thinly and then fried until crisp.  We washed this down with some merlot before our mains arrived.

The senior Birds both chose the Sizzling Chicken – juicy chicken pieces and vegetables drizzled with the restaurant’s signature butter and yoghurt sauce and served on a huge flatbread with rice salad and some mixed leaves. It also came served with a spicy dip on the side if you like your chilli (which all of us do!). We both tried a little of the chicken which was beautiful, and the portions were extremely generous.

Bird plumped for the vegetarian version, a pitta bread came topped with mixed sliced red peppers, mushrooms and spinach, then a layer of 3 thick-cut grilled aubergine slices which were smothered in a lemon and tahini sauce, a layer of 4 thick-cut courgette slices and finally 2 huge slices of tomato. This was served with a brilliant bulgar rice salad, tomato-y, spicy, gorgeous! Like all the mixed leaves of the evening these came dressed in pomegranate molasses which proved a clean, tangy flavour to cut through the tahini.

Fats chose the beef and pomegranate – there’s not a lot to say about this apart from that it was simply delicious! A healthy volume of grilled beef chunks were served peppered with pomegranate (are you beginning to spot the theme?) – the fresh bursts of flavour contrasted really nicely with the charred flavour of the beef.

Finally we shared a dessert, dried whole figs stuffed with a honey, walnut and pomegranate paste – the perfect way to finish off the evening. We then wandered/high-kicked (á la Ministry of Silly Walks) our way back along the seafront, extremely full and satisfied. The bill came to around £120 including service charge for 4 starters, 4 mains, 1 dessert and 2 bottles of lovely wine – very reasonable! We would say we’ll definitely be back but given how infrequently we’re in Brighton and how many brilliant restaurants there are it might take us a while to get back round to Pomegranate.