For the past couple of years, Middle Eastern cuisine has been having a major moment.
And we are all luckier for it.
No longer does the spice mixture of ras el hanout prompt a quizzical look. We now talk knowledgeably about the best brand of tahini. And we think nothing of whipping up our own hummus at home.
The new “Honey & Co. at Home: Middle Eastern recipes from our kitchen” (Pavilion), of which I received a review copy, adds to that narrative by providing a wealth of tempting accessible recipes. The book is by husband and wife chefs, Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, who own the Israeli-influenced cafe, Honey & Co. in London.
As alums of Yotam Ottolenghi’s renowned London restaurants, their recipes spotlight seasonal ingredients, but are even easier to make at home. Try your hand at everything from “Yemeni Lentil Meatballs” and “Cold Yogurt and Pomegranate Soup” to “Lamb Chops with Rocket, Figs and Walnuts” and “Tahini Cake with Lemon and White Chocolate.”
“Chicken in Plums and Sweet Spice” is a Middle Eastern version of a tray bake.
With stone fruit abundant at this time of year, I actually used a mix of plums and pluots in this dish. The fruit gets used three ways: First, blitzed in a food processor with coriander and fennel seeds, garlic, red wine vinegar and a little olive oil to create a marinade for the chicken thighs turn a brilliant fuchsia color. Second, some of the cut plums go into the roasting pan in the oven with the chicken, turning soft and jammy. Third, the remainder of the cut plums go in toward the very end of the roasting time, so they don’t get cooked as much, but retain their shape and density. A little sugar gets sprinkled over everything then. Although the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of sugar, I used only half of that because my fruit were fairly sweet already. I noted that change in the recipe below.
The chicken cooks up very moist, with a fruity-winey taste. The onions turn sweet and soft. The fresh tarragon leaves that get scattered over before serving lend a hit of licorice here and there.
The recipe calls for the garlic cloves to be left unpeeled when they cook with the chicken. The cloves don’t end up soft and buttery enough for spreading, but still quite firm, so I just discarded them before serving.
Flatbread or rice or other grains of some kind would be ideal to serve alongside to sop up the vivid sauce in this truly summer-kissed dish.
Meet the Authors: On July 12, join Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich at a special dinner event at Salt House in San Francisco that will feature recipes from the cookbook. The $100 four-course dinner includes wine pairing or cocktails. To reserve a spot, call the restaurant at: 415-543-8900. Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event.
Chicken in Plums and Sweet Spice
(Serves 4 to 8)
6 to 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (depending upon size)
For the marinade:
2 plums, quartered and stones removed
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the roasting tray:
2 to 3 celery sticks, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 onion, peeled and cut into wedges
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
6 to 8 plums (or a mix of plums and pluots), quartered and stones removed
1/2 to 1 tablespoon demerara sugar
A few sprigs of tarragon, to garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Make the marinade by blitzing everything together in a food processor until you have a smooth puree. Pour the marinade over the chicken thighs and mix well to make sure they are evenly coated. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate: a couple hours will do the trick but you can leave it for up to 24 hours.
Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the celery, onion, garlic and half the plum quarters in a large toasting tray or pan. Top with the chicken thighs, skin-side up, and pour any remaining marinade over the chicken. Season with some salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, then remove the tray and baste everything well with the juices that have formed at the bottom.
Reduce the temperature to 400 degrees and return the chicken to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
Add the remaining plum quarters. Sprinkle with the sugar and roast for a final 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, baste again and garnish with a few tarragon sprigs before serving.
Adapted from “Honey & Co. At Home” by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich
More Plum Deliciousness: Plum Streuselkuchen