I have made no secret of my love for Middle Eastern food. It is one of the most vibrant and delicious cuisines with a real taste of the spicy and sweet mix. Almonds and pistachios cooked with apricots and sultanas, slow roasted meats such as lamb cooked in tagines with roasted peppers, fresh spices, seasoned with plenty of chillies and all with plenty of heat and flavour. My personal favourite is an Iranian pilaf rice dish. Cooked rice seasoned with nuts and fruits and plenty of spices and then added to a frying pan with a little butter until the edges are crisp and the middle is soft. I love serving this rice dish piled high with some cranberries sprinkled on top and I am the first to scoop up the toasted and crisp bits of rice.
It is a cuisine that is starting to get a little more recognition but I can’t help that worry it is more a fashion thing rather than appreciating the true culture of it. This is food that is designed to feed families, from cultures that traditionally are rich in the world’s most delicious of herbs and spices and it is about comfort. It is colourful and bright and in my opinion is what real superfood is about. Middle Eastern cuisine might use a lot of turmeric, berries and pomegranate that have made it more popular in recent years, but it isn’t cooking with superfoods for the sake of it. It is using these ingredients because that is what the cuisine is about – local, healthy, wholesome and delicious!
This Pistachio and Pomegranate Harissa Roast Chicken is easy to make and goes well with a Halloumi and Aubergine Salad on the side. I love the spicy red pepper harissa paste and like to get the skin on the chicken crisp while the meat is tender and soft and just pulls off the bone. I scatter the crushed pistachio’s over the chicken about 5 minutes towards the end of roasting and serve with plenty of pomegranate seeds and fresh coriander before serving.
- 4-6 Chicken thighs/ legs
- Handful of pistachios (shelled and crushed)
- Small bunch fresh corainder (finely chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)
- 2 tbpsn harissa paste
- Juice of 1 lemon, plus the zest of half the lemon
- 1 red chillie (finely sliced)
- 2 tbpsn pomegranate seeds
- Olive oil
- Salt/ pepper
- Add the harissa paste, garlic, lemon juice, chilli, about 2 tbpsn olive oil and lemon zest to a large plastic zip bag and add the chicken. Give everything a good mix in the bag and then leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours, ideally overnight.
- Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Place the chicken in a roasting tin and season with a little salt and pepper. Make sure all the juices have been tipped out of the bag into the tin. Place in the oven for around 35/ 40 mins or until the chicken is crispy on top and cooked through.
- About 5 mins before the end of roasting take the chicken out of the oven and scatter half the pistachios on top of the chicken. Place back in the oven for another 5 mins.
- Once the chicken is cooked plate up on a serving plate and scatter the leftover pistachios, pomegranate and fresh coriander on top. Season with a tiny bit of salt and pepper again and serve!
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