I have been eagerly awaiting Diana Henry‘s new cook book, A Change Of Appetite and last week I finally got my hands on it. I was not disappointed, its a beautiful book. In the introduction Diana explains the background to the book and says, ‘the main thing you can do for good health is to eat proper home-cooked food, limit anything processed, really keep an eye on refined carbohydrates (especially sugar), switch to whole grains for at least some meals and up your vegetable intake.’ Its common sense and we all know what we should be eating more and less of, but its much easier said than done. This book is packed full of healthy, nutritious recipes that look and sound delicious.
The recipes are listed by seasons, and its been lovely to be able to run my eyes down the list of Spring recipes now that the sun has come out and I fancy eating something lighter. This recipe for Persian saffron & mint chicken with Spring couscous in particular jumped out at me and pleaded to be made immediately. I had most of the ingredients at home so just needed to get some dried sour cherries, and some extra lemons and I was ready to go!
The ingredients below are taken directly from the recipe in the book, which serves 4 people. As I live on my own, (and I only had 3 chicken thighs in my fridge) I halved the amounts so it was enough for me to have for dinner and then again the next day for lunch.
For the chicken
about 1/4 tsp saffrom stamens
juice of 2 lemons and finely grated zest of 1
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 red chillis, deseeded and roughly chopped (if, like me, you don’t like chilli, you can just omit this)
2tbsp olive oil
leaves from 1 small bunch of mint
8 skinless boneless chicken thighs
For the couscous
20g (3/4oz) dried sour cherries
200f (7oz) wholemeal couscous
200ml (7fl oz) boiling chicken stock or water
2tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
juice of 1/2 lemon and finely grated zest of 1
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp each chopped flat-eaf parsley and mint leaves
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
25g (10z) pistachios, choppped
handful of pea shoots (or other small salad leaves)
For the yoghurt sauce
200g (7oz) Greek yoghurt
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, grated
microleaves, such as amaranth, or 3 radishes, julienned
I began by weighing everything up and laying it out in advance. It just makes the kitchen a little more organised whilst cooking.
For the chicken, put the saffron and lemon juice in a small pan, heat gently and stir to help the saffron stamens dissolve.
Remove from the heat and mix with the lemon zest, garlic, chillies and olive oil. Tear the mint leaves into the pan.
Put the chicken thighs into a large dish (I was only making half the amount so I just used a small one) and pour the marinade over.
Turn the over to make sure they get completely coated, then cover with cling film/plastic wrap and put in the fridge to marinate. Leave for about 30 minutes. (Alternatively you could just pop the chicken into a freezer bag and pour the marinade over the top to make sure its fully coated. Then pop the bag in the fridge).
At the same time, pour boiling water over the cherries for the couscous and leave them to plump up or 30 minutes.
Sprinkle the couscous into a bowl, pour over the stock or the water, and the olive oil. Leave for 15 minutes. Fork it through to separate the grains, then add the garlic, lemon juice and zest, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir in the herbs, spring onions, pistachios, pea shoots and drained cherries.
To make the yoghurt sauce, mix the yoghurt with the extra virgin olive oil and garlic, and place in a serving dish. Sprinkle with the microleaves or radish matchsticks on top.
Heat a griddle pan until it is really hot. Lift the chicken out of the marinade and griddle it (you will have to do it in two batches if your pan is small), turning frequently.
You want to get a good dark golden colour on each side. Make sure the chicken is cooked (cut into the underside to check: the juices should run clear with no trace of pink).
Serve it with the couscous and yoghurt sauce.
I am so glad I tried out this dish. It tasted wonderful. The chicken was charred beautifully yet moist and tender and oh so tasty. It was perfect with the couscous which was the best tasting couscous I’ve ever had. I’m not a huge fan of couscous normally but this recipe has changed my mind. The sweetness coming from the cherries, the freshness from the mint, the crunch of the pistachios, it was absolutely delicious. And the yoghurt on the side cut through it all. It is a really stunning dish. And it tasted even better the next day when I had the rest for lunch.