Aah, well it’s been a while. I suppose that’s what you do during a lockdown right? I mean either you can wallow in misery and drown in anxiety over how your life has suddenly become the plot of a terrible horror movie where a virus (really?!?!) has the whole world under its’ grip….or you can find things to do which calm you and maybe help/entertain others at the same time. More than cooking, writing is definitely a de-stressing activity for me. The comforting clickety clack of a keyboard, the feeling of my thoughts being emptied and even perhaps – my voice or opinion being heard. So, if you’re trying to find silver linings for this whole situation – ta-dah! The return of the Cookups blog!
So today, while we are on Day 6 of the official government lockdown or rather “holiday” due to COVID-19, I thought to myself “what can I cook with the ingredients that I have?” and THEN I had the realization that almost everyone else (in the world!) is thinking exactly that and making do with their rations. Epicurious has been doing some great and relevant content recently, such as how they’re cooking during this quarantine period that has a lot of useful ideas!
I wanted to use up my chicken thighs which I had stocked up on, and so I clicked this link for 73 recipes for chicken thighs. I have to admit, when it comes to cooking – I am totally on the faakibaaj boat and I like recipes that are simple and easy to execute. I was also bored of the usual stuff I make (I tend to stick to Asian style stir fries etc, because they are super fast and simple). However, SA wanted some different flavours and picked this recipe instead. I had most of the ingredients on hand, and figured why not just wing it?
The other day, while trying to be productive during my lockdown I had decided to declutter my spices and remembered that a dear friend had brought me back some sumac from her travels in Turkey. I am telling you – the best people are those who bring you back spices and cookbooks from their travels. And of course, the ones who send you food! Hehehehe! So I thought, instead of letting the poor sumac languish in the nether regions of my pantry – why not use it and make something creative?
Without waffling on any further, (do forgive me, my writing is rather rusty) – here is how I went about recreating my own version of this dish! First, I gathered my ingredients. I took out the thighs, which I feel compelled to tell you are nowhere near as sexy as Beyonce’s but they sure do come in handy! I took out my skinny local sweet potatoes, one malta orange and a can of chickpeas. I also zested and juiced a lemon, just so I could pretend I am somewhere in the Mediterranean sippin’ on some Limoncello with the sea-breeze wafting through my hair.
The not-very-sexy but practical chicken thighs were then marinated with a generous helping of minced garlic (I’d say I used about a teaspoon and a half because garlic = life), salt (I use Cox’s Bazar Sea Salt from Holey), two tablespoons of olive oil, three tablespoons of lemon juice and some zest, around a teaspoon of sumac, a dash of paprika and a drizzle of honey.
While the chicken sat there taking in all those yummy flavours and juices, I set about to work on those sweet potatoes. Of course they were washed and scrubbed thoroughly before use, which I hope everyone practices anyway regardless of COVID-19. Then I pricked them all over with a fork, which for some reason made me think of the expression – “stick a fork in me, I’m done!” except that these potatoes were not done but I definitely am with this lockdown! Then I rubbed some olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika on the sweet potatoes and put them on a foil covered baking sheet and into the oven. The recipe I was following said to put them in for an hour, but they clearly never met our Deshi mishti aloo.
The recipe asked for the chicken to go in the oven as well, but I have noticed that these kind of dishes come out better on the stove when put on a skillet. Since I had some time with the mishti aloo roasting in the oven – I decided to work on the chickpea salad portion of the recipe beforehand. Now, here is where it really gets interesting. I needed to use up my fresh produce and greens before they wasted away – which is definitely a big NO-NO specially in lockdown. While rooting through my fridge, I found a shalgum (white turnip) and some cute little leaves which I believed to be watercress but a quick Google search showed that they are radish shoots instead. They should really have a Shazam type app for plants, don’t you think?
I kept it simple with the dressing – mixing lemon juice, olive oil, garlic (OF COURSE), honey and salt and pepper. Some shorishar tel would have been great as well in place of the olive oil. I used up half of the shalgum which I cut into thinly sliced quarters and mixed with the can of chickpeas. I then poured over the dressing and let it sit. My plan was to add in the radish shoots at the very end so that they do not get overdressed and wilted.
By this time, when I checked on the sweet potatoes (it had been about twenty minutes) – all the smaller ones were already done with the larger ones still a bit tough. So I took out the smaller ones and transferred them to a plate.
With the salad out of the way and sweet potatoes almost done, it was time for the chicken to cook. I turned my stove on medium high and put the chicken pieces on and poured the marinade on top. I decided against using any extra oil which worked out just fine.
I put the chicken pieces on the skillet skin side down, till the skin turned very brown and almost a bit black. The charred blackened bits taste very good so don’t worry about burning down the house or anything. The honey in the marinade also acts as a bit of a glaze, although I didn’t use too much! Once one side of the chicken was done I turned the pieces over and added the malta oranges and scallions. I love charred scallions and thought it would be a nice touch.
Now, with everything done – all I had to do was assemble it all and mix in the radish shoots to the chickpea salad. I transferred the chicken and sweet potatoes on a baking dish and garnished with the charred malta oranges and scallions. I tossed in the radish shoots – and voila! Lunch was ready!
Verdict? I’m glad I experimented and that I had a reason to write and blog again. The chickpea/shalgum salad was very nice but next time I may just use shorishar tel instead to complement the shalgum. I loved the taste of the shalgum which was really nice and peppery but a bit more subtle than a moola (radish). I would also chop up some green chilis and add it in the salad the next time. The chicken was very juicy as the marinade had soaked through very nicely – the sumac and the lemon added a nice tangy and smoky taste with the honey and malta oranges adding the sweetness for balance. This is a pretty versatile recipe and you can swap out for whatever you have on hand like I did. Till next time, stay tuned – hopefully will do this more regularly (yay!) and get some recipes from different special guests too!
- 4 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
- sea salt to taste
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil (divided)
- 6 garlic cloves (minced)
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons of sumac (divided)
- 1 teaspoon of paprika (divided)
- 1/2 teaspoon of honey (according to taste)
- 15 pieces of sweet potatoes
- 1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas
- half a white turnip (shalgum)
- 1 bunch of radish shoots
- 1 malta orange (thinly sliced in rounds)
- handful of scallions