I'm a huge fan of Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbooks, and I finally got to eat at a few of his different restaurants in London over the summer. It was such a treat for me. I've been drooling over his recipes for years, wondering if my bastardized versions hold a candle to the real deal.
My favorite Ottolenghi meal started at his flagship place around 4 pm. We came in at an odd time, hoping to beat the crush, and we ordered off the lunch menu. It was great, but his more ambitious dishes, the ones I was really excited about, are only available at dinner.
What's an Ottolenghi superfan to do?
Well, obviously, just keep going! Eat lunch, drink a bottle of wine, eat dessert, then eat another full dinner when the menu finally switches over. An Ottolenghi marathon.
We staggered out of there about five hours after we came in, stuffed, drunk, and loving the expressions on the waiters' faces when we finally rolled off our barstools. It was a fantastic day. I paid my respects by choosing an Ottolenghi main dish to cook for my final exam at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
I had three hours to prep and cook this dish, along with my sides of rice pilaf, braised carrots and grilled green onions, a starter of arugula with pomegranate, walnuts and goat cheese, and dessert of rustic peach tart with summer berries. Oh, and a randomly assigned white yeast bread plait. It was pressure. Especially when all the electricity in the kitchens went out just as I was finishing up.
But it was still gooood. Chicken is marinated in lemon, ginger, cinnamon and saffron. Then it's roasted and topped with hazelnuts, honey and rosewater. The dish is easy to make, but you would never know by the huge, lively flavors. And if you can't find or don't want rosewater, just leave it out - the chicken will still taste amazing.
Ottolenghi's Chicken with Hazelnuts and Saffron
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 20 min Cook Time: 1 hour Total Time: 1 hr, 20 min plus marinating time
8 chicken thighs, or 1 whole chicken split into 8 parts
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Large pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
Juice of 1 lemon
4 Tbs water
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
about 3/4 cups / 100 g hazelnuts
3 Tbs honey
1-2 Tbs rose water (I err on the side of less)
handful of torn mint or cilantro leaves for garnish
In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, water, salt, and pepper. Leave to marinate overnight in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C. Toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Rub the nuts between a folded dish towel to remove most of the skins. Chop coarsely and set aside.
Place the chicken skin-side up on a large baking dish, then pour over the marinade. Bake for about 35 minutes.
While the chicken is roasting, mix the honey, rose water, and nuts together. Remove the chicken from the oven and spoon a generous amount of the nut mixture onto each piece. Return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the nuts are golden brown.
Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and garnish with the mint or cilantro.
Serve with rice pilaf, braised carrots and grilled green onions.