zaatar chicken

spiced roast chicken thighs on apricot and olives, sauteed dilly cucumber, labneh and straight up basmati rice

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The Sultan of Constantinople used to have parties where he would invite chefs from around his vast empire to collaborate in the kitchen using new ingredients, sharing techniques and having fun. The qualifier to be one of the chosen chefs was that you had to be able to cook rice. Still as tricky now as it was back then. 

INGREDIENTS

zaatar spice blend

3 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1 Tbsp dried Oregano

1 tsp sumac

pinch of salt

Chicken and veggies

6 chicken thighs

½ cup of big green pitted olives, halved

1 cup of dried dried apricots, halved

1 red onion, thick slices

½ cup water

braised cucumbers

2 field cucumbers, the thick skinned, waxy cucumbers

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp cumin seeds

good big pinch of salt

zest and juice of 2 lemons

small bunch fresh dill, roughly chopped

rice

1 cup Basmati rice

1½ cups of water, boiled from the kettle

pinch of salt

labneh to serve


Labneh

Labneh is basically really thick plain yogurt, or greek yogurt. There are some imposters that call themselves ‘greek yogurt’ but they only have %2 fat. That’s wrong.
If you can’t find labneh or good proper strained yogurt you can make it by plopping 1L of plain 10% yogurt into a colander lined with cheese cloth set into a bowl. Wrap the cheese cloth over the top of the yogurt and leave it in the fridge for 48 hours. The liquid will drain off and collect in the bowl leaving behind the most thick and tangy cream cheese textured yogurt.

PROCEDURE

Make the zaatar blend any time by simply combining all the ingredients, shaken or stirred. Keep it in a sealed spice jar.

Absolutely get all your mise en place before you start cooking anything. That means everything measured out or chopped and put into small bowls, gather your equipment like pots and pans and serving spoons, dinner plates, boil the kettle for the rice. Get your head straight.

Now to cook.

Preheat your oven to 450˚F.

Peel the cucumber and use a melon baller to scoop out little bitty seedless balls of cucumber, Keep the rest of the holey cucumber to slice and put into G&T’s.

Season the chicken thighs very generously with lots of zaatar spice on all sides. (wash your hands after you touch the raw chicken).

Get a large frying pan over medium heat. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil. Use the frying oil from the eggplant fries, it has herb flavour.

Sautee the red onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the apricots, olives and water.

Arrange the chicken thighs on top and transfer the pan to the oven. Set the timer for 25 minutes. Now you have 25 minutes to maker the rest.

In a small pot of pan heat up some oil with the cumin seeds. When they start to sizzle immediately fire in the cucumbers, lemon zest and lemon juice. Cook on low heat until you are ready to go.

Get a small pot with a tight fitting lid over low heat. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, the rice and a good pinch of salt. Stir it all around. Measure exactly 1½ cups of boiling water from the kettle into the pot and place the lid on top. Set another timer for exactly 15 minutes. When that timer goes off remove the pan from the stove but don’t remove the lid. Just leave it alone until you are ready to serve. Don’t remove the lid!

When the chicken timer goes off take the chicken out and let it rest for 5 minutes. Add the dill to the cucumbers.

Now to plate. Rice goes down. Then the chicken and the apricot stuff. Nice little cucumbers and the labneh.