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.

Shabbat – A Special Moment in Time

Shabbat is a special time for me because it is about light, taste and touch. Light from the Shabbat candles, taste from the special foods that you prepare for your family and touch is the laying your hands on each other when you bless one another and your children.

I grew up in a small town in Alabama and there were hardly any single Jewish men for me to go out with. I never dated Jewish men until I was in my late twenties and early thirties. And then, I moved to Israel and met my husband. The first time we celebrated Shabbat together tears welled up in my eyes because I realized that this is what I was always looking for, someone to spend Shabbat with me who understands the emotions behind this special moment in time.

My husband and I take turns preparing Shabbat dinner. We both like to experiment with different herbs, spices, fruits and sauces.

Last Friday, my husband made roasted chicken and stuffed it with oranges and sprinkled orange juice, grated orange rind, rosemary, thyme and garlic on the chicken. He then placed carrots, sweet potato slices and quartered white potatoes around the chicken and roasted it the oven.

Sometimes I stuff the chicken with rice, couscous or bulgar and add dried cherries or apricots or figs, orange quarters, fresh ginger and lemons or put pomegranate molasses on the chicken. It just depends on my mood.

I make the challah that my father taught me how to bake. He is an excellent cook and I owe most of my cooking skills to him. This is not a quick and dirty recipe, but it makes the most delicious, rich challah. It is a great bread to use for French toast.


Yield: 1 wedding size loaf, 2 large loaves, 3 medium loaves or 4 small loaves

This recipe is from The First Jewish Catalog: A Do-It-Yourself Kit. This is a cake-like challah. Great for the holidays or anytime.

2 c lukewarm water

3 pkg or 3 tbsp. dry yeast or 1 cube (50g) fresh yeast

8 c or more unbleached flour

1-1/2 c sugar

1-1/2 tsp salt

1/2 lb (224g) butter or margarine

4 beaten eggs

1 beaten egg for glaze

Variation: add golden raisins during first kneading. Reduce sugar by 1/2 cup.

Mix water and yeast in a very large bowl. Add 3 c. flour and 1 c. sugar. Stir with a fork and let rise 30 minutes in a warm place.

Meanwhile, put the remaining flour, sugar and salt in another bowl. Add margarine or butter and cut with a knife until mixture resembles coarse meal.

At the end of 30 minutes, add 4 eggs to the yeast mixture and stir well (will decrease in volume).

Add flour/margarine mixture to the yeast mixture and knead in the bowl. If sticky, add up to 2 more cups of flour.

Knead well on floured board until smooth and elastic. Put in oiled bowl and cover with towel. Put in warm place and let rise 2 hours or until doubled.

Punch down. Knead lightly for a minute or two.

Divide into 1 to 4 parts depending on whether you want small, medium, large or wedding size loaves. Divide each part into 3 equal parts, roll into braids and braid, pinching ends. Place on an oiled or silicone-lined baking sheet(s). Cover and let rise in warm place as long as possible (3 - 5 hours).The longer you can let it rise without killing the yeast, the lighter it will be.

When the bread has finished rising, brush with the egg glaze and bake at 350F (180C) for 50-55 minutes (1 wedding size loaf), 45-50 minutes (2 large loaves), 30-45 minutes (3 medium loaves) or 30 minutes (4 small loaves).

This bread can be frozen for up to three months. Wrap in plastic wrap and heavy duty foil.

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