This dish was born while we were in Jerusalem shooting the photos for this book, when my parents invited the whole gang for a Friday night meal. Needless to say my mama was ecstatic. “What should I make? Will it be enough? I’ll make three more salads! We need to make something extra special!” she exclaimed. As we chatted about what to make, I remembered a dish she used to prepare a lot when I was young: a simple side of tomatoes and green olives that I really, really liked. We decided to serve it for the gang as a braised lamb shoulder stew. The meal was very special, with lots of arak, lots of laughs and tons of excellent food.
- 8 chicken thighs or 4 whole legs (thighs and drumsticks) (see Note)
- 2 tbsp baharat (see Note)
- 2 tbsp ras el hanout (see Note)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 2 onions, thinly diced
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 250 g (9 oz) plain pitted green olives (my favourites are manzanilla)
- 8 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock, or water if you can’t get any
- 2 x 400 g (14 oz) tins very good-quality chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 handful chopped parsley
- 1 handful chopped coriander
- couscous, plain rice or freekeh, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 45 minutes
Start by rubbing the chicken with 1 tablespoon each of the baharat and ras el hanout and some salt, then set aside while you start the sauce. (You can do this the day before, then cover and leave the chicken thighs or legs in the fridge overnight – they’ll be even tastier.)
Heat a wide, shallow pan over a medium heat, add the oils and then the onion and sauté with a pinch of salt and the chilli flakes for about 10–15 minutes until the onion is nicely caramelised.
While the onion is frying, bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil, add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and blanch the olives for 2 minutes. Drain and then repeat this process twice more. Drain for the final time and set aside.
When the onion has caramelised, add the garlic and sauté for 2–3 minutes. Meanwhile, heat up a large non-stick pan over medium heat, add the chicken, skin-side down, and let them crisp up as they slowly render their fat.
Add half the stock (or water) to the onion and garlic. Meanwhile, when the chicken is nice and crisp on the skin side, flip it and sear on the other side as well. Season with a touch of salt and pepper, remove from the pan and leave to rest.
Add the remaining stock to the pan and deglaze it with a wooden spoon, combining the residue from the pan with the onion, garlic and stock. This will add amazing flavour to your sauce. If you’ve gone for the vegetarian version, just add all the vegetable stock at once to the onion and skip to here.
When the stock has reduced by half – when you’re left with about 500 ml (½ cup) – add the tomato, blanched olives, sugar and the remaining baharat and ras el hanout. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the chicken and simmer for a further 20 minutes over a low heat. I like to turn the heat off and leave the dish to rest for at least 30–45 minutes before I serve, which binds all the flavours amazingly. Garnish with the chopped herbs and serve with couscous, plain rice or freekeh.
• The recipe here uses chicken, but you can replace it with any meat, or you can serve it the original way as a vegetarian side dish.
• Baharat and ras el hanout are both Middle Eastern spice mixes.
Recipe and image from The Palomar Cookbook by Layo Paskin and Tomer Amedi (Hachette Australia, $39.99, hbk). Read our review and find more recipes from the book here.