One of the best places to look for inspiration when you don´t know what to cook is definitely the fruit and vegetable section of the market. So many colours, shapes, and textures. You never have to get bored, because each time of the year has its own products. And as a nice bonus, buying seasonal produce usually saves you some money as well.
At the moment, the fruit stores are filled with pomegranates. Beautifully shaped fruits, full of little seeds that pop in your mouth with a great sweet and sour kick when you bite in them. The fruit originates from the middle east, from the area around modern-day Iran. Nowadays it is also grown throughout South Asia and the Mediterranean, among other locations. Here in Spain there is even a city that has the pomegranate in its coat of arms. This city is Granada, which was actually renamed after the fruit during the Moorish period.
And the name Granada is not the only Moorish influence that you can still find there. Although I have only visited Granada once, several years ago, I clearly remember the Alhambra, its best known attraction. The Alhambra is a large palace that was built during the middle ages. It comprises several buildings and beautiful gardens. The inside is very impressive, with colourful painted tiles, and walls and ceilings that are completely covered with Arabic inscriptions. The letters form wonderfully detailed and elegant decorations. It really looks like a dream palace and seems to be very far away from Europe. A truly amazing place.
As the pomegranates in the shops reminded me in this way of the Arabic influence, I decided to combine the fruit with some more middle eastern ingredients. The result? Below recipe.
Pomegranate chicken with couscous, roasted beetroots, and spicy yoghurt sauce
Ingredients (for 2 as dinner)
- 4 small chicken thighs – without the bone but with skin
- 1 pomegranate
- Garlic – 2 cloves
- Cinnamon – 3 teaspoons
- Ground cloves – 1 teaspoon
- Couscous – around 120 grams
- Mint – small bunch
- 3 fresh, small beetroots
- 150 grams of yoghurt
- 1 red chilli
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Wrap each beetroot loosely in aluminium foil. Place on a baking tray and roast for around 50 minutes. If they are quite big, leave them in for a bit longer. After this time the skin should be loose and easy to take off. When they are ready, you can peel them while they are still warm and slice them up. Just dress with some salt, pepper, and a bit of olive oil. They don´t need much more, as roasting gives them a really deep and almost sweet flavour.
In the mean time, cut the pomegranate in half and take out the seeds. Transfer them into a bowl with the juice. Make sure to remove all the white pieces of membrane that are in between the seeds.
Finely chop the garlic, or pound in a mortar and pestle, and mix with the ground cloves and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Then mix in around 4 tablespoons of good olive oil, until you have a loose mixture. Add the pomegranate juice out of your bowl. Take the chicken thighs and loosen the skin on one side so that you have a small pocket in between the skin and the meat. Stuff some pomegranate seeds in those pockets. Then rub the chicken all over with the mixture of spices and oil you have just made, also rub some under the skin. Leave to marinate.
Next, prepare the yoghurt sauce. Deseed the chilli and chop half of it very finely. The amount of chilli really depends on your own love for spiciness. Mix the chilli through the yoghurt. Also mix in the remaining teaspoon of cinnamon and a small pinch of salt. Decorate with some thinly sliced rings of chilli.
Measure your couscous in a cup and transfer it into a bowl. Chop up the mint. Mix the mint and a pinch of salt through the couscous. Place half a lemon in the middle of the bowl. Then add boiling water. Measure this in the same cup in which you measured your couscous and make sure you add 1.5 times as much boiling water as couscous. Cover the bowl and let the couscous steam and soak up the water for around 10 minutes, or until it is soft and has soaked up all the water. After this time, squeeze in the juice of the lemon that was in the bowl and mix through the couscous. Add the remaining pomegranate seeds, just reserve a few for decoration.
While the couscous is soaking, heat up a grill pan. When it is hot, place the chicken in the pan, skin side down. You don´t need to add any oil. Turn the fire to medium heat, and grill the chicken on the skin side for around 10 minutes, or until the skin is golden and crispy. Then turn the chicken around and cook for another 7 minutes, or until cooked through.
Finally, slice up the grilled chicken. Serve with the couscous and the roasted beetroots, and the yoghurt sauce on the side. Decorate with the left over pomegranate seeds and some mint leaves. Enjoy!