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Chicken, mushroom and leek couscous

It’s the second day of annual leave and this Tuesday happens to be my date night. I almost forgot but luckily I have iCloud calendar to remind me. Although I’m a little bit more energised having not been at work for two days, I still wanted to find something quick and easy to cook. The kitchen shelf is literally overburdened with jars of couscous so I thought that they ought to start making an appearance on the dinner table. I had a craving for mushrooms and leeks and chicken and I found a lovely little recipe on the Abel & Cole website.

It turned out quite nice very spicy just how I like it and comforting. I feel that this is the recipe that I’m going to come back to again and again. It’s really simple and it uses ingredients that I am already familiar with. The only new addition was the spices. The recipe calls for Ras el hanout but surprisingly it was not something, I had in my cupboard despite my summer raid of the (middle eastern) international supermarket. I did however have packets Baharat and Lebanese 7 spice so just used 2 teaspoons of the former.

It occured to be this morning while I was writing this post, that I ought to take time to find out the different between all three…

My quick ‘research’ (looking at the packet labels in real life and the internet) has revealed the following:

Ras El HanoutBaharatLebanese 7 Spice
1coriandercoriandercoriander
2cumincumincumin
3saltsalt salt
4cardamoncardamoncardamon
5clovesclovescloves
6nutmegnutmegnutmeg
7gingergingerginger
8pimentoall spicepimento
9black pepperblack pepper
10tumerictumeric
11cinnamoncinnamon
12garlicgarlic
13chillichilli
14paprika
15white pepper
16cayenne
17aniseed
19pepper
20fenugreek
21caraway
22cornmeal
23fennel
24bay leaves
Ras el hanout, Baharat and Lebanese 7 Spice

Ras el hanout

Literally translated as “head of shop,” the Arabic phrase ras el hanout really means “top shelf.” It is said that North African spice dealers would mix together the best of what they had on offer, thus creating a heady, aromatic signature blend—sometimes 50 individual spices deep. 

Baharat

Bahārāt, which simply means “spice” in Arabic, is an all-purpose seasoning used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Although the particular blend varies by region and household, it always includes black pepper and typically has cumin, cinnamon, and cloves, among other spices.

I could not find anything specific on the internet for the Lebanese seven spice maybe I did not search enough webisites, although this post was informative. The only reason I have it is because it was recommended in the introduction of the honey and co-recipe book I received for my birthday this year. In the section on base recipes they mention:

Bahrat savoury spice mix (aka ‘Sarit spice’ at Honey & Co’), this like its namesake in our kitchen, is the backbone of everything we make and, it like its namesake, has endless depth and beauty, and improves almost anything. You can use ready-made for her at spice mix instead or Lebanese seven spice mix, which is sold in most large supermarkets – it will taste slightly different but will still be tasty.

So my general impression after all this reading is that they are highly aromatic combinations of spices. They will be put together according to country/region. And they might vary in terms of the type of dish you might want to use them for. I feel like I am going to enjoy using and experimenting with them

Yes, I enjoyed a small glass of white wine.

Ingredients

  • 250g chicken breast mini fillets
  • 1 leek
  • 200g white mushrooms
  • 150g wholewheat couscous
  • 2 tsp ras al hanut
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 550ml boiling water

Method

1. Fill your kettle and boil it. Chop the chicken breast mini fillets into bite-sized chunks. Warm a wok or deep frying pan over a medium-high heat for 1 min, then add ½ tbsp olive oil and the chicken. Fry, turning the chicken once or twice, for 4 mins till browned all over.

2. While the chicken fries, trim the root and top 3cm off the leek. Halve it and rinse out any grit, then finely slice it. Rinse the mushrooms. Scoop the chicken out of the pan into a bowl. Add another ½ tbsp olive oil to the pan and stir in the leek. Tear the mushrooms into the pan. Season with a pinch of salt and fry, stirring often, for 5 mins till the veg look juicy.

3. While the veg fry, tip the couscous into a heatproof bowl and pour in 300ml boiling water. Stir with a fork, cover with a plate and set aside to soak. The couscous will absorb the water and become fluffy and tender. 

4. When the veg look juicy, scoop the chicken back into the pan. Add 2 tsp ras al hanut and crumble in the stock cube. Pour in 250ml boiling water, stir to mix, the pop a lid on the pan (or use a baking tray if you don’t have a lid). Simmer for 6-7 mins till the chicken is cooked through.

5. While the chicken and veg simmer, finely grate the zest from the lemon. Fluff the couscous up with a fork, draining off any excess water, and stir in most of the lemon zest. Divide the couscous between a couple of warm plates.

6. Add a squeeze of juice to the tagine, then taste it and add a little more salt or lemon juice if you think it needs it. Spoon the chicken and veg over the couscous, top with a little lemon zest and serve.

References:

https://www.abelandcole.co.uk/recipes/chicken-mushroom-leek-couscous

https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/ras-el-hanout-101070

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ras_el_hanout

https://www.thekitchn.com/inside-the-spice-cabinet-baharat-67863

Honey & Co , Food from the Middle East, Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich

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