Zilleh Chicken with Saffron Rice

As parents, most of our decisions revolve around children, especially when it comes to eating out. It’s a true blessing to find a place where we can all sit and enjoy a meal without unnecessary arguments like, “Papa, I don’t want to eat this”, or, “Can we please get something else?”, or (God forbid), “I’d rather have McDonalds!”. Zilleh was just that; oh, how I miss thee!

About five years back, we came across a gem of a Turkish restaurant called Zilleh. Unfortunately for me, and much to the dismay of my kids, it was closed down without any notice some three years ago. We still mourn its loss at least once a week – oh, that crispy succulent (extra spicy) chargrilled chicken with a side of fragrant saffron rice was just the pick-up you’d need to get you out of that funk!

For those of you who follow my blog, you are well aware of how much I love my copy-cat recipes, and Zilleh Chicken was no exception. I sauntered into the kitchen one beautiful day, rolled up my sleeves, and raided the pantry with one mission – to recreate the magic of Zilleh!

When recreating a recipe solely based on flavor profile, I always start with the most dominant flavors and then start adding more spices to the mix. I only stop once I get an 85% match. In this case, it was close to 100%, and what resulted was a beautifully cooked, perfectly succulent, tantalizing chicken. When paired with the extremely fragrant saffron rice, it was a party in my mouth.

I’d be selfish if I didn’t share this discovery with the world, so here’s how you can recreate this masterpiece to impress your family and friends. The rice, the salad, and the french fries are totally optional – however, the chicken would feel very lonely without them on your plate!

Ingredients (chicken):

  • 1 kg chicken (cut into 4 tikka-style pieces)
  • 2+1 tablespoon ground red chili paste (also called Shatta/Sambal – we get this readymade from our local supermarket or you can make it yourself)
  • 3 tablespoon heaped ginger garlic paste (use equal quantities of ginger and garlic – blend with very little water)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Handful of fresh parsley
  • Juice from ½ a lemon
  • French fries (as a side)
  • Cucumbers (as a side)

Ingredients (salad):

  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 medium onion
  • Juice from ¼ of a lemon
  • Some parsley
  • Salt to taste
  • Sumak (Arabic spice) to taste

Ingredients (saffron rice):

  • 1½ cups basmati rice
  • 1-2 small pieces of cinamon
  • 2-3 cardamoms
  • 2-3 black pepper corns (dried whole)
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 5-6 strands of saffron
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2½-3 cups water (depending on the directions on your rice package)
  • Salt to taste

Method (chicken):

  1. Apply shallow tikka-style cuts to the chicken
  2. Marinate chicken with 2 tbsp red chili paste, ginger garlic paste, salt, and black pepper
  3. Keep it in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours, preferably overnight
  4. Heat oil in a frying pan and add the chicken to it; cook on a low-medium flame
  5. Once the chicken is fully cooked, add in the parsley and half the lemon juce and mix it well
  6. Take the pan off the stove
  7. Apply the remaining 1 tbsp red chili paste evenly on the chicken
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 300 F
  9. Place the pan in the oven and grill for 5 minutes

Method (salad):

  1. In a bowl, put the thinly sliced onion, the chopped tomatoes, lemon juice, parsley, sumak and salt
  2. Mix it well and set it aside

Method (saffron rice):

  1. Bring water to a boil on a high flame
  2. Add the rice into the water – make sure it is rinsed several times before adding to the pot
  3. Add in the cinamon, cardamoms, black pepper corns, cloves, saffron, turmeric and salt
  4. Once the water has dried out and is not visible on the surface, cover the pot with a lid and let it steam for 5-7 minutes until done

Final assembly:

  1. On a platter, make an even bed of rice
  2. Put the chicken on top of the rice – scrape out all the lovely spiced mixture from the pan
  3. Put some salad on the side
  4. Add in some french fries (optional but oh so delicious!)
  5. Garnish with some fresh parsley
  6. Dig in!

Note: This recipe is dedicated to some of my office friends who share my love for food. Kavya, Sumaiya, Souvik, Reumaysa – food is what unites us!

A Gastronomic Voyage at Roda Al Bustan

DSC_5934

Homemade Gummy Bears

dsc_7890

Who doesn’t love a gummy candy? This stretchy, chewy concoction is a staple in our household and my kids are absolutely nuts about it. As hands-on parents, my wife and I prefer homemade treats whenever possible; that way, we know exactly what and how much of it is going on in the preparation.

For the past year or so, I’ve been trying to find a good candy recipe that has the right ‘gumminess’ to it; most recipes rely on store-bought flavored gelatin, which, to be honest, doesn’t ‘feel’ that good. Obviously, I took the Gummy Challenge head-on and came up with this really good (and somewhat healthy) recipe after a few failed attempts. The gummies turned out surprisingly chewy and tangy, with a good stretchy consistency. Here, I am presenting two variations of the recipe; ‘Citrus Blast’ and ‘Very Berry’. But before you proceed any further, pay heed to my words: once you pop, you can’t stop!

Tools and Utensils:

  • Silicone molds (easy to remove the gummies once set and no need to grease – available online or in stores)
  • Plastic molds/ice-cube trays (apply some cooking spray/oil before pouring the gummy mixture)
  • Dropper
  • Saucepan
  • Measuring cups & spoons
  • Bowls (if you wish to mix in different food colors)
  • Whisk
  • Ziploc bags
  • Airtight container

Ingredients for Citrus Blast:

  • 1 cup cold juice comprising of:
    • 1 cup minus 3 tbsp fresh orange juice (without pulp)
    • 2 tbsp lemon juice (without pulp)
    • 1 tbsp lime juice (without pulp)
  • 6-8 drops orange oil
  • 4-5 drops lemon essence

Ingredients for Very Berry:

  • 1 cup cold juice comprising of:
    • 1 cup minus 1 tbsp mixed berry juice (without pulp)
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice (without pulp)
  • 4-5 drops strawberry essence

Common ingredients:

  • 30 gms gelatin (I got 3 sachets of 10 gms each)
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch citric acid powder
  • a few drops of natural food colors (optional)

dsc_8041

Method:

  1. Pour cold juice into a saucepan and add corn syrup to it; mix well till both are uniformly combined
  2. Add gelatin to the juice and whisk it all up so that no lumps are visible
  3. Set the mixture aside for 5 to 7 minutes to let the gelatin bloom
  4. Put the saucepan on a medium-low flame and add the sugar to the gelatin mixture; cook for 8 to 9 mins, stirring constantly
  5. Take the pan off the heat and mix in the oil, essence and citric acid powder
  6. If you want to use food colors, divide the liquid into separate bowls, add a few drops of color to each bowl and mix well
  7. Using a tablespoon or a dropper, pour in the hot mixture into silicone molds; work fast as you don’t want the liquid to start solidifying
  8. Refrigerate the molds for 90 minutes
  9. Remove gummies from the molds and place them on a tray
  10. Keep the tray in an open place, covered with a thin cloth, for 36 hours (larger candies) or 8 hours (tiny candies/gummy bears) to let the sugar crystallize – this will give the gummies their stretchy texture
  11. Keep them in a cool dry place (use a ziploc bag or an airtight container) to preserve freshness; for the gummies to really feel like the store-bought ones, consume them after 7-8 days
  12. Consume them within 1 week

Try going insane with whatever tickles your fancy; just substitute the juice, oil, and essence to experiment with interesting combos. Do share your exploits in the comments section below so that others can try them too. Enjoy!

NOTE FOR VEGETARIANS: Try using 10 grams Agar-Agar (also known as China Grass) powder as a substitute for the gelatin. The texture of the gummies would be slightly brittle as agar coagulates differently. Alternatively, you can use vegetarian gelatin/gels available in the market. I haven’t tried china grass for this recipe but I’m sure they’d taste great. If you do try a vegetarian variant, please let me know!

dsc_7842

Zesty Orange Chicken

dsc_7591

Oranges taste great on their own; I hardly know anyone who doesn’t like them. They are a mind-blowing combination with chocolate, second only to mint, and are used extensively in desserts. But never in a million years had I expected to fall head-over-heals in love with oranges in an entrée. I’ve been obsessed with Orange Chicken ever since I tried it some four odd years ago at a Chinese Restaurant.

Like all recipes I’m obsessed with, I tried recreating this sweet and sour concoction with a hint (subjective) of spice last weekend. After some experimentation, I got the flavor profile I was looking for; in retrospect, I should have left out a few ingredients that gave the dish some outlandish undertones, a clashing after-taste, if you may. The recipe below doesn’t include those ingredients so you should be able to enjoy a mouth-watering Orange Chicken. I strongly recommend serving this gravy with Chinese Fried Rice (leave me a comment if you want me to post a recipe).

dsc_7595

Ingredients:

  • ½ kg chicken (cut into one-inch cubes)
  • ½ cup + ½ cup fresh orange juice (I used navel oranges)
  • ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh orange zest
  • 5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1” cube of ginger (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp chili sauce
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • I tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp white pepper powder
  • ½ tsp chili flakes (optional)
  • ½ tsp black pepper powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp chicken powder
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 5-7 dried red chilies (optional – I used African bird’s eye chili)
  • 1 tbsp peanuts (salted and roasted)
  • 2-3 spring onion stalks (one-inch pieces)
  • ½ green bell pepper (medium sized – cut into cubes)
  • 1 onion (medium sized – cut into cubes)
  • ¼ tsp MSG (a.k.a. ajino moto)
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 tsp honey (optional)

Method:

  1. Mix chicken, black pepper and corn flour and set it aside
  2. Heat sesame oil in a pan and add in garlic and ginger
  3. After a minute or so, add chicken to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes
  4. Mix in chili flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, MSG, and white pepper and let it sit for a minute
  5. Add in ½ cup orange juice and lemon juice and let it cook for 2 minutes
  6. Add soy sauce, chili sauce and vinegar to the chicken and cook on high flame
  7. Once the sauces have dried out a bit, add in peanuts, dried chilies and the remaining ½ cup orange juice to it
  8. When the juice evaporates again, add in Worcestershire sauce, chicken powder, green peppers, onions and the spring onion
  9. At this point, taste the chicken and see if you need salt (as the sauces used are already salty) or honey (if you feel the chicken is a bit on the sour side – mainly because of the oranges used)
  10. Give the chicken a good mix and turn off the flame
  11. Take out in a serving bowl and garnish with some fresh orange zest

Serve without waiting another second – make sure you have the Fried Rice ready beforehand. Any comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Enjoy!

dsc_7597

Weekly Photo Challenge: Names

sherlock-holmes

For those of us who find solace in fiction, Sherlock Holmes is a very familiar name. I was pleasantly surprised to find a restaurant named after him in the heart of London. Absolutely beautiful!