Sunday, 27 October 2013

My Middle Eastern inspired Chicken Roast

I have a soft spot for Middle Eastern cooking. And I love their spices. Leave me in a souk in Saudi Arabia and I might not want to leave ever. Only I would have to so that I can cook with them. Ras al hanout, sumac and my favourite Baharat.
          One of the best birthday gifts I have ever received is a bottle of Ras el Hanout.  On my last birthday my colleagues gave me a selection of gourmet sauces and spices and I have never been as happy to receive a gift as I was that time….talk about the thought behind. I never thought I would ever get Ras el Hanout here in Calcutta, and there it was in a pretty little bottle. I could see bits of dried lavender and rose petals and my heart did a quick jig. The bottle was empty 2 days later. I had put it in anything and everything rice, meat, potatoes…whatever I could lay my hands on.
          I headed to the gourmet section of the super market my colleagues had got it from and it turned out they were out of stock, and they had no clue when they would stock up on the spice mix, if ever. By the way the sales guy had no clue what it was that I was looking for.
          However, it isn’t easy to get ready-made Middle Eastern spices. You will get them if you tried but definitely not at your neighbourhood grocers. But the good thing is that most of the ingredients that go into making these spice are available at the same neighbourhood grocer's. No not the lavender and rose petals, but come on... let’s start with basics.
          So, I tried out Baharat at home, following a recipe I got online. And it was great. I have tasted food that had Baharat in it…and this one seemed quite authentic. But Baharat is of various kinds,. Different countries do theirs differently. This one is Bahraini. and here's the recipe.  

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about 2 inches long)
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 tablespoon paprika powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • For the baharat, set the paprika and nutmeg powders aside. Place all remaining ingredients (whole seeds, cinnamon stick and cloves) in a small frying pan and dry roast over medium-high heat, tossing regularly to prevent scorching, for 3-4 minutes or until very fragrant. Transfer to a spice or coffee grinder and let cool. Add the paprika and nutmeg and grind all the ingredients to a fine powder. Store left over baharat in an airtight jar.
Baharat recipe courtesy 


 Yesterday I made some again and this time I used it in a mean Middle Eastern inspired Roasted chicken. Thought it was a good way to get into the vacation mood…after all I am headed for the Middle East…well I am not going to Saudi Arabia…no…I headed for Turkey, but that is traditionally Middle East too. So is Egypt by the way.


Whole chicken - 1 (Cleaned)
Parsley leaves - a big bunch -
Garlic paste - 2 tbsp
Ginger Paste - 1 tbsp 
Whole cloves of garlic - 8-10
While Oil - 1/2 cup
Rind of 1 lemons
Salt to taste
Baharat - the whole of the quantity given above

This is how it'll look after 12 hours of marination. If you don't have the time, 3 hours would suffice but that would never be the same as overnight would it?


  • In the half cup oil add the garlic paste, ginger paste, salt and Baharat. 
  • Rub on the mixture into the chicken evenly. Refrigerate the marinated chicken overnight, covered with a film. 
  • Next day, take the chicken and let it come down to room temperature. Stuff the cavity  with the bunch of parsley and the whole garlic cloves.
  • Preheat the oven at 175 degree centigrade and roast the chicken at 170 degrees for 1 and a half hour or until chicken has browned well outside and is tender inside. 
  • Rest for about 10 minutes before carving. A squeeze of lime and then...utter bliss.

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