Whilst some among us (not mentioning names, of course!) continue to claim that they are hopeless in the kitchen, producing an easy but stunning dish CAN be achieved by just about anyone! The secret is generally to keep things simple – not trying to mix up too many flavours, using the best possible quality ingredients and keeping prep as uncomplicated as possible. Seriously delicious dishes can be accomplished with the right combination of just a few ingredients and often all it takes is one small step to take a meal from delicious to amazing!
Don’t be reluctant to use spices or ingredients that seem novel or exotic, however, do take care to make sure that they are fresh and top quality. Supermarket spices are often simply not worth using and the dates on the jars need to checked carefully for most spices will lose their flavour and pungency pretty quickly. With some spices it is preferable to buy them whole and grind them yourself – the smell of freshly grated nutmeg bears very little resemblance to the pre-ground popular supermarket brands. Try not to buy your spices in large packets or jars – as, again, they will lose their flavour long before you use up the packet. Shopping in gourmet stores for better quality dried spices is well worth the extra effort and cost – this is what will lift your finished dish to the next level.
I found the original of the following recipe in a wonderful book called “Ottolenghi”, named for the cafe/restaurant in Notting Hill, in London, owned by the authors. I saw the book on a bookshop shelf in Melbourne and promptly fell in love the recipes. They are all bursting with freshness and flavour and have more than a hint of the Middle Eastern background of the two owners.
I have adapted this slightly to suit myself, but this recipe is a classic example of minor additions resulting in a simple, but knock-out dish.
CHICKEN WITH ALMONDS AND HONEY
1.2 kg chicken thighs on the bone or
1 large chook, jointed into 6 pieces (I always use free range, organic chook)
2 onions finely chopped
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of saffron threads
juice of 1 lemon
50 ml chicken stock
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
120 gm almonds
75 gm honey
2 Tbsp rosewater
Mix the oil, spices, saffron, juice, stock and salt and pepper together. Place chicken and onions in a large container, pour over marinade to cover all the bits, cover and refrigerate overnight.
To roast, preheat oven to 180C, spread chook out over a tray large enough to fit all in a single layer and roast for 40 minutes.
Roast almonds in a pan or in the oven until lightly browned, then chop – not too course, not too fine. Mediumly??
Mix nuts with honey and rosewater to make a paste.
Remove chicken from oven and cover each piece with a generous amount of nut paste, return to oven and cook further 5-10 minutes, until nuts are golden and honey is just beginning to caramelize.