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!

Macro frenzy!

After waiting for over 5 years, I managed to acquire an amazing macro lens with 1:1 magnification. It is none other than the Sigma 105mm F2.8. I’ve been playing with it for a few months now and wanted to share some of my recent work.

Enjoy!

A Gastronomic Voyage at Roda Al Bustan

DSC_5934

The Coffee Debate: Hot versus Cold

psx_20170311_115425.jpg

Walk barefoot in deserts
Fight sharks in the sea
What I wouldn’t do for
Freshly brewed coffee

One step in the cafe
My senses go wild
It’s my candy shop and
I feel like a child

Barista smiles and says
“Welcome to our hold
Would you like a hot one
Or just something cold?”

“A Latte to-go please
Make sure that it’s strong
I’m driving cross-country
The road there is long

“A cold cup of java
Can’t cut it for me
If I have to stay up
Then hot it should be

“The weather is freezing
With chance of more rain
The warmth of this cup will
Make me whole again

“Ice cubes are a no-no
Whipped cream’s not my thing
The heat gives me pleasure
My soul starts to sing

“I’ll be off the grid for
A few days at most
Gazing the star-lit skies
Just right off the coast

“So while you are at it
Some beans would be great
With coffee by my side
Won’t care what I ate

“I know once I’m out there
I’ll start missing you
A hot cup will drive out
All my feelings blue”

With this the Latte’s done
Spruced with a cream heart
Silky smooth perfection
A true work of art

“Thank you for choosing us
May luck be with thee
When you come back, dear sir
Your coffee’s on me!”

“The pleasure was all mine
Cheers to your kind thought
With more of my ramblings
I will bore you not

“As days pass us by and
The sun beats us down
Won’t mind an Iced tea to
Pick me from the ground!”

  • – Yousuf Bawany, April 2017

The Story Of Us

dsc_8021

Mesmerized
Traumatized
Ostracized
And chastised

Breathing air
Filled with lies
Vengeful words
In disguise

Fairytales
Broken hearts
Juxtaposed
Miles apart

All your smiles
Laced with spite
Covert looks
Pure-bred blight

Ticking clocks
Out of sync
Broken pens
Lacking ink

Symphonies
Jarring sounds
Hunting me
Packs of hounds

When will you
Break these walls
Answer me
Not their calls

Time to stop
Take a look
Is this one
For the books

Read between
Wordless lines
Shed the dark
Let it shine

Fools we are
Chasing ghosts
Leaving what
Matters most

Realize
Recognize
Empathize
Synchronize

– Yousuf Bawany, February 2017