Chicken Hamin with Israeli Couscous and Butternut Squash

As the weather get warmer here, I like to start lightening up the dishes. My husband just returned from a two week trip where he only had fish, so I had to make a chicken dish before he started growing scales and gills. After the first successful attempt at making a hamin, I decided to try a summer recipe from Sherry Ansky’s Hamin cookbook.

This recipe just calls for chicken legs, israeli couscous, onions, and water, which sounded too bland for our taste, so I kicked it up a notch and added garlic, slices of butternut squash, Hungarian paprika, and ras el hanut. The dish was delicious and the sweetness of the butternut squash was a perfect addition. This dish can be made overnight or you can cook it for 4 hours and serve it on Friday night like I did. The best part of this dish is that you line the pan with parchment paper, so there is easy cleanup; no muss and no fuss.

Chicken Hamin with Israeli Couscous and Butternut Squash

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Adapted from a recipe in Hamin (in Hebrew) by Sherry Ansky

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 small butternut squash

1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil

2 large onions, coarsely chopped

6 whole cloves garlic

2 rounded tablespoons Hungarian paprika

1 rounded tablespoon ras el hanut

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

500g (1lb) Israeli couscous (ptitim)

4 cups of water and another 1/2 cup

Preheat oven to 100C (200F) for overnight cooking or 150C (300F) for 4 hours cooking.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan that has a lid over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute until lightly brown. Add the whole garlic, paprika, ras el hanut, salt and pepper; stir for a couple of minutes. Add the Israeli couscous and lightly toast it, stirring constantly. Add the water, cover, and cook the couscous for 8 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, cut the butternut squash in half vertically, keeping the peel on, and seed it removing all of the stringy parts. Then, cut the squash horizontally into 6mm (1/4 inch) slices. Set aside.

Line a large clay pot, or other large roasting dish that has a cover, with parchment paper. Place half of the couscous mixture in the bottom of the pan, patting it down to make sure you have an even layer, and then add a layer of butternut squash slices. Add all of the chicken on top of the butternut squash, and then layer with rest of the butternut squash. Place the rest of the couscous mixture on top and add the remaining 1/2 cup of water. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the pan and cover tightly with the lid.

Place in the oven and cook overnight or for 4 hours at the higher temperature. Invert on a platter for presentation.

A Big Fat Greek Wedding in Nazareth

Sorry for the long absence, but I went to Germany on business and only returned yesterday. Last night, I went to a Israel Christian wedding reception in Nazareth. My manager got married yesterday afternoon at a Greek Orthodox Church, but had the reception after Shabbat ended. It was a very nice reception. The band played Arabic music and there was a lot of dancing. I didn’t take too many food photos because: a) I couldn’t eat much and b) It wasn’t all that interesting.

There was lots of dancing, just like at a Jewish wedding. The bride and groom are hoisted on chairs high above the audience, just like at a Jewish wedding.

The dancing bottle trick, just like at some Jewish weddings. Actually there is no trick to this, you must have excellence balance. He is balancing Jordanian Arak.

This is some sort of candle ceremony. The bride danced with two candles and a few minutes later, women were circling her, taking turns holding a candle on either side of the bride. Then a few minutes later, the groom took the candles and danced around the bride. I will have to ask her what the significance of the candle ceremony is when she comes back from her honeymoon in the Far East.

The proud father of the bride came round with cigars and whiskey to celebrate the marriage. You know what the most beautiful thing about this wedding was? I looked around the room and saw how much everyone looked the same – Jew, Christian and Muslim. We were all happy for the lovely couple, we were all having fun dancing to the nice Arabic music…..just a normal day in Israel.

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