IMG_5286.JPGSaturday is usually a night for grilled meat of some description. We would normally opt for kebabs or burgers. This week was a little different. Dan cooked up a real Middle Eastern storm, and I was mightily impressed how it all came together. I’m also now completely sold on chicken thighs, in terms of both versatility and flavour. I guess it’s all about know-how.

So what did this feast consist of? Well…Egyptian grilled chicken with mashed courgettes (a friend kindly gave us a homegrown batch – this is the second meal we have made from them – with another planned for tomorrow) and tomatoes, alongside a bulgur pilaf with tomatoes and aubergine. This was teamed with a generous (as always) helping of houmous and some lightly toasted pittas. As for the shout outs…the ‘Egyptian grilled chicken’ was taken from a great cookbook on our shelf – ‘Mediterranean Cooking’ by Paula Wolfert and the other two dishes can be found in ‘Tamarind and Saffron’ by Claudia Roden.

What a plethora of delights it was, and everything just worked. I had seconds naturally, and between us we ate the lot in one sitting, apart from a spoonful of bulgar wheat! That’s how good it was. Here’s how you make it.

To make the Egyptian grilled chicken (serves two) you will need:
– 800g of chicken thighs (skin on/bone in)
– Four large garlic cloves (peeled/crushed)
– Four tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
– Three tablespoons of fruity EV olive oil
– One tablespoon of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
– Salt and black pepper

Method:
– Season the chicken with the salt and pepper to taste.
– Combine the rest of the ingredients.
– Roll the chicken in the mixture and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least one hour.
– Pre heat the grill to a high heat and set the rack seven inches from the flame. Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade.
– Place the chicken skin side down on the grill and cook for ten minutes, basting with the cooking juices/marinade.
– Turn over and grill for a further ten minutes. Turn and baste twice more, until both sides are crisp and golden brown.

To make the mashed courgettes and tomatoes (serves two) you will need:
– One large onion (chopped)
– Two tablespoons of EV olive oil
– One garlic clove (crushed)
– One teaspoon of ground cumin
– 250g of courgettes (cut into thick slices)
– One tablespoon of red wine vinegar
– A good pinch of chilli powder
– Half a ton of chopped tomatoes
– Salt and black pepper

Method:
– Fry the onion in the oil until golden, then stir in the garlic and cumin.
– Add the courgettes, vinegar, chilli powder, tomatoes and season to taste.
– Put a lid on the pan and cook for around ten minutes (without added water) or until the courgettes are very soft.
– Mash and serve at room temperature.

To make the bulgur pilaf with tomatoes and aubergines (serves two) you will need:
– One large onion (chopped)
– Two tablespoons of sunflower or EV olive oil
– 250g of bulgur wheat
– 250g of chopped tomatoes
– Two teaspoons of tomato puree
– One teaspoon of sugar
– One teaspoon of ground allspice
– 350ml of water
– One medium aubergine (cut into one inch cubes)
– Salt and black pepper

Method:
– Fry the onion in two tablespoons of oil until golden.
– Add the bulgur and stir well. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, allspice, water and season to taste.
– Stir and cook with a lid on, over a very low heat for fifteen minutes. If it gets too dry, add a little more water, or uncover to allow evaporation if it gets too wet.
– Leave to rest, covered, for ten minutes or until the grains have expanded and are tender.
– Fry the aubergines in shallow oil until lightly browned and soft inside. Drain and mix gently into the bulgur wheat.

There is a distinct difference between this type of grilled chicken in comparison to the ‘souvlaki’ that we often go for. The flavours of the garlic and the lemon in the marinade really jump out at you, as opposed to the subtle way that they present themselves in the Greek kebabs. One thing is for sure, the chicken works so well with the tomato and courgette sauce.

I’m a huge fan of aubergines, so I was always going to love the bulgur pilaf, which incidentally, soaks up the tomato juice a treat. The creaminess of the houmous rounds everything off nicely and cuts through some of the acidity. A fabulous spread, for any day of the week.

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