So I’ve still not fully recovered from my mandolin accident, but I’ve definitely started cooking again. With a vengeance! One of the best gifts I got for Christmas–from my boyfriend’s dad– was the new Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook called Jerusalem. It’s incredible! I’ve all but slept with it under my pillow every night since Christmas morning. The book is filled with recipes that are must-eats and I used up a whole stack of post-it notes trying to flag all the stuff I wanted to make. Check this out:
Seriously, if you like cooking buy the book. And even if you DON’T like cooking its just a seriously beautiful book to own, it’s not all recipes, there’s a lot of interesting stuff about the culinary history of the city and the region, how vastly multicultural the city of Jerusalem is and how these different cultures so profoundly influence cuisine. Plus, so many beautiful photographs.
The first dish I made from the book came out perfectly. It’s a grilled chicken salad with some crunchy fennel, fresh herbs and an orange and saffron syrup. I served this with another really fabulous cous cous recipe from the book (I’ll post about that later this week). Gareth loved it and claimed it was one of my “top three meals”. I thought that was a pretty decent review.
What you’ll need:
- One bulb of fennel
- 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
- One orange
- About 1/4 cup of honey
- A few threads of saffron
- One medium spicy red chili peper (Optional)
- Some fresh herbs like flat leaf parsley, mint, coriander or basil
- Olive oil, salt and pepper
- One lemon
- A light colored vinegar like white wine or cider
- I also used some baby spinach to make the salad more “salady”
What to do:
First prepare your orange syrup dressing. (And preheat your oven to about 350) This will take about an hour to simmer so it should be the first thing you do. Trim the top and bottom off the orange and cut it into 6 wedges. Put the orange into a saucepan with the honey, vinegar, saffron and just enough water to cover the oranges. Bring to a boil and simmer on low until you’re left with a syrup, about 3 tablespoons worth. You might need to add more water or sugar as you go along if it tastes too bitter.
While this is simmering, smother your chicken with lots of olive oil, salt and pepper and lightly grill it on a griddle pan for 2-3 minutes on each side. Just enough to get char marks on the meat but not enough to cook it fully. If you don’t have a griddle pan, pan fry it so that it gets nice and brown.
Transfer the chicken to a baking dish/roasting tin and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes so that it cooks through. I covered my chicken with tin foil so it wouldn’t dry out.
Now, prepare your salad by cutting the fennel very very thinly. I’m not allowed to use my mandolin anymore after cutting my thumb off on the FIRST TRY so I just freehanded it. The thinner the fennel the better. Tear up the herbs and slice the chilli and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice.
When the chicken is done take it out of the oven and let it cool down significantly. At this point the syrup should have reduced significantly. Pour the syrup and orange peels into a food processor and blitz till you have a smooth runny paste. Add more honey or some sugar if it’s too bitter but it SHOULD be a little bitter.
Take the chicken and cut it (or the original recipe says tear it up with your hands) and add to the salad. Toss with the herbs and then add the orange dressing. This salad is fresh, hearty, sweet, bitter, and just a tad spicy.