This is the dish that I made when the Australian family staying at Amra Palace Hotel came for dinner. Check out my post about the evening here. So as not to cause any contention I have decided to call this dish Arabic Spiced Chicken rather than Ouzi.
I have been taught to make Ouzi using whole not ground spices and as I didn’t know exactly what was in the preblended mix that Atef had bought I decided that I had to make my version of Ouzi as opposed to the version that I had been taught.
So therefore the spices that I put down here in the recipe are not exactly what I used for our dinner. The spices listed here are based on my best guess of what would have been put into the blend as there is a base combination of spices that is used for this dish. I will endeavour to get Atef to take me to the store where he got the spice blend (providing he can remember which one he went to for this mix) and see if I can get the storekeeper to make up another batch of the this Ouzi spice blend and take note of which spices and roughly what proportions are used. Until I can do that and update the recipe have a go at this version – I promise it will still be yummy!
This is an easy recipe, but there are a few steps which whilst aren’t complicated do take a bit of time. The step of smoking the chicken isn’t absolutely necessary but does add a unique flavour to the dish. For smoking the chicken you will need 3-4 pieces of coal that you would use for a bbq.
For the Spice Mix (Baharat)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cardamon
Mix all of these together. By all means play around with the quantities to suit your taste. Could add a tsp of ground nutmeg if you like the this flavour.
For the Chicken
A whole chicken jointed leaving skin on or 8 chicken pieces on the bone with the skin on (drumsticks, thighs) or 4 Chicken Marylands
150mls of natural yoghurt
1 lemon sliced
1 heaped tps of salt (this seems like a lot but it gets washed off)
2 heaped tablespoons of tomato paste
3 large garlic cloves finely diced
1 1/2 tsp of spice mix
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl mix the chicken pieces with half the yoghurt, slices of lemon and the salt. Liberally rub the mix into the chicken squeezing the lemon slices to release some of the juices. Let the chicken marinate for about 30 mins (1 hour if you have time). This just makes the chicken really tender and juicy.
Rinse the chicken with water to remove the yoghurt mix.
You can leave out the next step of smoking the chicken if you want to.
Place the chicken in a roasting tray. Place a small piece of aluminium foil in the middle of the dish and form a small well. Pour in approximately 1 tablespoon of oil into the aluminum foil well.
Have ready a piece of aluminium big enough to be able to cover the roasting pan tightly. Get some coals that you would use in a bbq and heat them up over a gas flame cooker. Put the hot coals into the aluminium well and cover the dish with the large piece of foil to stop any of the smoke escaping. Leave the chicken to smoke for about 20-30 minutes depending on the degrees of smokiness that you want to achieve. I like a strong smokey flavour so leave the chicken to smoke for about 30 minutes.
Mix the rest of the ingredients with the remaining yoghurt together in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste – it’s best to have this marinade on the salter side. Add the chicken pieces. Rub the marinade into the chicken and in under the skin. Leave to marinade for 1-2 hours.
Coat the bottom of the roasting pan with some oil and add the marinated chicken pieces.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Pour enough water into the pan to just cover the bottom and then seal the roasting tray with foil. Cook the chicken for 40-50 minutes.
Whilst the chicken is cooking prepare the rice.
For the Rice
1 large brown onion diced
3 cloves of garlic finely diced
1 green capsicum diced
1 cup of diced carrots
1 cup of frozen green peas
1 tsp ground turmeric
pinch of saffron
6 whole cloves
6 whole green cardamon pods (bruise with the back of a knife to release the flavour)
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsps of spice mix
salt and pepper to taste
1 litre of chicken stock
2 cups of long grain rice soaked in water for 20 mins and then rinsed until the water runs clear.
Heat some oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the capsicum, carrots and peas and cook until the peas have defrosted (about 2 minutes). Add the turmeric, saffron, cloves, cardamon pods, cinnamon stick and spice mix. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Bring the chicken stock to boiling point. In a medium size saucepan add the onion and vegetable mix and the rice. Add enough stock until the stock covers the rice by approximately 2cms. Put the saucepan over a medium heat and bring the stock back to a boil. Taste the stock and adjust for seasoning with salt, pepper and if needed more spice mix. Cover the saucepan and then reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until all of the stock is absorbed. Remove the saucepan from the heat and without removing the lid let the rice stand for a further 10 minutes.
To finish off the chicken.
Remove the foil from the roasting tray. Turn the grill on in the oven to medium and place the chicken on the middle rack. Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until the chicken starts to turn golden brown and and the skin blister. Turn the chicken pieces over and repeat for the other side.
Lemon slices or wedges
Parsley roughly chopped
Almond or pine nuts dry roasted in a frying pan until golden brown
Arabic Salad (finely diced tomatoes and cucumber, seasoned with lemon juice, salt, pepper and parsley)
Turn the rice onto a large platter. Arrange the chicken pieces on top of the rice. Decorate the platter with slices of cucumber and lemon. Sprinkle chopped parsley and toasted nuts over the dish. Serve with the Arabic salad and yoghurt.