The weather is so strange; I know… global warming. I experienced 30C (86F) in Germany last week without air-conditioning and I come back to Israel and it is 22C (72F).
Spring is in full bloom here in Israel. The bougainvillea are in bloom and the wildflowers are showing their beauty. There are about 2,800 different species of flora in Israel. A great place to see some of this flora is at Ramat Hanadiv (the Hill of the Benefactor) in Zichron Yaacov. Founded by the Rothschild family, it has been open since 1954. Baron Edmond de Rothschild and his wife Adelheid are buried there.
Friday before last I decided to make a variation of a favorite of ours, Nigella Lawson’s Georgian Stuffed Chicken. This dish calls for dried cherries and rice, but I decided to add dried blueberries and substitute couscous for the rice. It was delicious. I also added a few other goodies, such as ras el hanut and pomegranate molasses.
Ingredients: I didn’t have enough pinenuts, so added some sliced almonds
Adapted recipe from Nigella Lawson
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 cup couscous, cooked according to the package
1/4 cup dried sour cherries, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup pinenuts
1 tablespoon ras el hanut or cinnamon
1 2kg (approximately 4 lb) chicken
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Process or finely chop the onion and garlic, and add to the pan, frying over a medium heat until the onion softens and begins to color.
While the onion mixture is cooking, preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C).
Add the chopped cherries, blueberries, pinenuts and ras el hanut or cinnamon and mix well. Add the fruit and nut mixture to the precooked couscous and combine well.
Spoon the fruit-studded couscous into the cavity the chickens. Place the remaining stuffing under the chicken or around the sides.
Drizzle the pomegranate molasses all over top and sides of the chicken.
Roast in the oven for approximately 1-1/2 hours. The skin should be golden and crispy and the meat cooked through; test by piercing the bird between thigh and body and if juices run clear, the chicken's ready.
If you do not have access to a Middle Eastern market, you can make your own ras el hanut.
This recipe is from Paula Wolfert's "Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco".
Because these spices are quite strong, Paula suggests that you grind some sugar cane in your blender after making this to get rid of the strong smell.
Recipe #1 is for those of you that have access to an excellent spice shop.
4 whole nutmegs
10 dried rosebuds
12 cinnamon sticks
12 blades mace
1 tsp aniseed
8 pieces tumeric
2 small pieces orris root
2 dried cayenne peppers
1/2 tsp lavender
1 T white peppercorns
2 pieces galangal
2 T whole ginger root
24 allspice berries
20 white or green cardamon pods
4 black cardamon pods
1/2 oz allspice berries
1 oz black peppercorns
1/2 oz galangal
1/2 oz mace blades
1-1/2 whole nutmegs
10 cardamon pods
1-1/2 oz dried ginger root
1/2 oz stick cinnamon
1/4 oz tumeric
3 dried rosebuds
Place all the ingredients of either recipe #1 or #2 in a blender and grind until fine. Sift the mix and place in an airtight jar.
For dessert, I served Iraqi date biscuits called Baba Beh Tamur. I purchased these parve biscuits at a fruit and vegetable market in Ra’anana. The sweetness comes from the date filling. I will definitely buy them again or try to make them myself.