Sam’s spiced chicken and Israeli couscous salad
Substitute the chicken for salmon if you like, or the couscous for brown rice. Variations on this dish will see you through summer.
Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Israeli couscous, or ptitim in Hebrew, was invented during a period of austerity in 1950s Israel, when rice was virtually inaccessible. The then Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, challenged a local food company to develop a wheat substitute for rice, and the result was so successful that it endures to this day. I love it because it makes such a brilliant base for salads. Aside from a slight variation in shape, orzo, risoni and fregola are all essentially the same as Israeli couscous; swap them around as you see fit.
This is how I like to cook all summer. Perhaps I’ll use hot smoked salmon instead of chicken; or swap out the couscous for brown rice. Play it by ear. Add flavours as you like. You might want to play around with the herbs. I hear there are pomegranates growing locally at last – get hold of one if you can and fold in some of those bright beautiful seeds. Or dress with some of Lot Eight’s gorgeous harissa olive oil. Damn delicious, I must say.
SALAD OF SPICED CHICKEN, ISRAELI COUSCOUS, HERBS AND RADISH
Prep time: 15 mins Cook time: 30 mins Serves 4-6 800g free-range boneless chicken thighs 2 tbsp cumin seeds ½ tsp cinnamon Olive oil 1 lemon 1.5 cups of Israeli couscous, fregola or orzo 4 red radishes, finely sliced Small handful each of mint, flat leaf parsley, dill and
chives, roughly chopped Quarter of an iceberg lettuce, finely sliced 1 small Lebanese cucumber or half a telegraph
cucumber, diced 4 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt, labneh or sour cream Another lemon Preheat the oven to 200C, on fan grill.
Combine the chicken with the cumin seeds, cinnamon, about a tablespoon of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Place chicken on a roasting dish and quickly grill for about 15-20 minutes, until it is golden brown and cooked through. Set aside to cool down a little.
In the meantime, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the couscous or fregola and let it return to a gentle boil. Leave to simmer for about 10 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Drain and rinse, and transfer to a large bowl. Add another tablespoon of olive oil, the sliced radish, three quarters of the chopped herbs, the sliced lettuce, chopped cucumber and remaining juice and zest from the lemon and fold everything together. Taste and season accordingly. Spread over a large platter. Slice the chicken thighs up and scatter over the top of the salad mixture.
Combine the yoghurt with the remaining chopped herbs, the zest and juice from the second lemon, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Dollop over the top of the salad, and serve immediately.