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Six O’Clock Solution: Chicken with chickpeas, a Syrian family recipe

The Scent of Pomegranates and Rose Water offers more than 150 recipes from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.
The Scent of Pomegranates and Rose Water offers more than 150 recipes from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.

Liven up chicken with a spicy sauce and add chickpeas to this time-honoured Arab dish, suggests Syrian cookbook author Habeeb Salloum.

The Toronto writer traces his family recipe back to the 18th and 19th centuries during the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Hummus vendors in the souks of Damascus would sell hot chickpea dishes flavoured with the Arab spice mix baharaat. Make it with ground cumin, paprika and cinnamon or just use plenty of cumin.

Salloum, whose family immigrated to Saskatchewan in the 1920s, has made a name for himself with numerous Syrian cookbooks and articles. Years ago, lentils and chickpeas were unknown in Canada. Now grown in this country, they are major Canadian agricultural exports and sell briskly in supermarkets. The Scent of Pomegranates and Rose Water, which Salloum wrote with his daughters, is a beauty and offers more than 150 recipes from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, each easy to follow thanks to different colours of type for introduction, ingredients, and directions. Using chicken stock in place of the 2 cups (500 mL) water intensifies the flavour.

Chicken with Chickpeas

Serves 8

4 tablespoons (60 mL) butter

1 broiler-fryer chicken (1.5 to 2.2 kg), in 8 pieces, trimmed of fat, or equivalent chicken parts

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

¼ cup (60 mL) finely chopped fresh coriander

1 can (19 ounces/540 mL) chickpeas, drained, rinsed

2 cups (500 mL) water

3 tablespoons (45 mL) tomato paste mixed with 1 cup (250 mL) water

2 teaspoons (10 mL) salt or to taste

1 teaspoon (5 mL) baharaat Arab seasoning mix (see above)

1 teaspoon (5 mL) freshly ground pepper

¼ teaspoon (1 mL) chili powder

Cooked rice

In a large, heavy frying pan or heavy casserole with a cover, heat butter over medium heat and brown chicken pieces on all sides. (Add more butter if you need to do this in batches.) Set chicken aside.

Sauté onions until they begin to brown, about eight minutes. Add garlic and coriander and continue to cook for two to three minutes, until garlic is fragrant but not browned.

Stir in chicken, chickpeas, water, tomato paste mixture, salt, baharaat, pepper and chili powder, stirring to combine ingredients.

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender to the fork.

Serve hot over rice, sprinkled with more fresh chopped coriander.

julianarmstrong1@gmail.com

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