chicken with dates, saffron and freekeh


Immigrants have enriched American food culture for so long that it’s hard to imagine what our dinner plates would look like without them. When I started this blog, I knew I wanted to use food as my lens to remind others of our shared humanity with these communities. Their struggles are our struggles.  Immigrant food is American food. If fear stems from misunderstanding, what better way to unite than by eating the foods of these vibrant and diverse populations? What better way to learn their stories?  All I want for this blog is to make you hungry. Hungry for some flavors you might have not tried before or some ingredient you might not be that familiar with.

So on to this mind-blowing chicken. I’ve been obsessing about it ever since I made it for my parents back in December. It truly is a one dish wonder and I never thought my cast iron skillet could carry so much flavor at once. If you’re not familiar with frekkeh, it’s basically wheat that has been harvested early, while the grains are still tender and green. The kernels are then roasted so it has a slightly nutty flavor. It’s very common in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines, especially in Syria where it’s commonly eaten with almonds and cinnamon like in this dish. 

Chicken with Dates, Saffron and Freekeh

Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi for The Guardian

8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone-in

2 tsp. paprika

¾ tsp. cinnamon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 medium onions, peeled and cut into thin wedges

3 small cinnamon sticks

3 wide strips orange peel

3 bay leaves

10 cardamom pods, lightly bruised

250 g. freekeh, rinsed

6 medjool dates, quartered lengthways and stoned

¼ tsp. saffron threads

500 ml. chicken stock

25 g. flaked almonds, toasted

5 g. mint leaves, roughly shredded

180 g. Greek yogurt, to serve 

Put the chicken in a large bowl, sprinkle over the paprika, ground cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Rub the seasoning all over the chicken, then put in the fridge to marinate for 1 1/2 hours.

In a large pan with a lid, heat the oil on  medium-high and cook the chicken for 10 minutes, turning halfway through, until the skin is dark golden-brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the oil in the pan.

Increase heat to high and sauté the onions for 6 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly charred. Reduce heat to medium, add the cinnamon, orange, bay and cardamom, and cook 3 minutes, until the onions are soft and the spices are aromatic. Stir in the freekeh, dates, saffron, stock, 1/2 cup water and 3/4 teaspoon salt, then return the chicken to the pan so it sinks into the freekeh a little but is not entirely submerged.

Once the pot comes to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 35 minutes, until the freekeh and chicken are cooked. Raise the heat, remove the lid and leave to bubble away for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the grain has absorbed most of the liquid. Take the pot off the heat, sprinkle with the almonds and mint, and serve.


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