Modern Israeli cuisine is having a major moment in the fine dining sphere. Highlighting extra-flavorful vegetable preparations and simply prepared meats, it’s one of the most popular ways to eat healthfully. Pick up a copy of The Palomar Cookbook, a collection of recipes from the award-winning London restaurant and try their chicken thighs in green olive and tomato sauce tonight!
This dish was born while we were in Jerusalem shooting the photos for this book, when my parents invited the whole gang for a Friday night meal. Needless to say my mama was ecstatic. “What should I make? Will it be enough? I’ll make three more salads! We need to make something extra special!” she exclaimed. As we chatted about what to make, I remembered a dish she used to prepare a lot when I was young: a simple side of tomatoes and green olives that I really, really liked. We decided to serve it for the gang as a braised lamb shoulder stew. The meal was very special, with lots of arak, lots of laughs and tons of excellent food. The recipe here is with chicken, but you can replace it with any meat, or you can serve it the original way as a vegetarian side dish. I really like it with some couscous, plain rice or freekeh.
- 8 chicken thighs or 4 whole legs (thighs and drumsticks)
- 2 tablespoons Baharat Spice Mix
- 2 tablespoons Ras el Hanout Spice Mix
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 onions, thinly diced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup plain pitted green olives (my favorite are Manzanilla)
- 8 garlic cloves, sliced
- 4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- pepper, to taste
- 2 14.5-ounce cans very good-quality chopped tomatoes (get the Italian stuff — they know their tomatoes)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Handful chopped parsley
- Handful chopped cilantro
Baharat Spice Mix
- 4 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon cardamom pods
- 4 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons toasted coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon allspice berries
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
Ras El Hanout Spice Mix
- 5 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 4 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds or 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried rose petals
- 3 tablespoons toasted coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns or 1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
For the chicken
Start by rubbing the chicken with 1 tablespoon each of the Baharat and Ras el Hanout Spice Mixes and some salt, then set aside while you start the sauce. (You can do this the day before, then cover and leave the chicken thighs or legs in the fridge overnight — they’ll be even tastier.)
Heat a wide, shallow pan over a medium heat, add the oils and then the onions and sauté with a pinch of salt and the crushed red pepper flakes for about 10–15 minutes until the onions are nicely caramelized.
While the onions are frying, bring a medium-sized saucepan of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and blanch the olives for 2 minutes. Drain and then repeat this process twice more. Drain for the final time and set them aside.
When the onions have caramelized, add the garlic and sauté for 2–3 more minutes. Meanwhile, heat up a large nonstick pan over a medium heat, add the thighs or legs, skin-side down, and let them crisp up as they slowly render their fat.
Add half the stock (or water) to the onions and garlic. Meanwhile, when the thighs are nice and crisp on the skin side, flip them and sear on the other side as well. Season with a touch of salt and pepper, remove from the pan and leave to rest.
Add the remaining stock to the pan and deglaze it with a wooden spoon, combining the residue from the pan with the onions, garlic and stock. This will add amazing flavor to your sauce. If you’ve gone for the vegetarian version, just add all the vegetable stock to the onions in step 5 and skip from there to step 7.
When the stock has reduced by half (i.e. when you’re left with about 2¼ cups, add the tomatoes, blanched olives, sugar and the rest of the spice mixes. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the chicken and simmer for another 20 minutes over a low heat. I like to turn the heat off and let the dish rest for at least 30–45 minutes before I serve, which binds all the flavors amazingly. Garnish with the chopped herbs and serve.