Recipes

Our Video Director Jazzes up Some Couscous with Help from Salma Hage’s Cookbook “The Lebanese Kitchen”

February 17, 2020

Lebanese cuisine is a hodgepodge of culture and history. Lebanon’s fertile land and many climates has dictated its traditional earthy, hearty fare; while it’s challenged history has incorporated various European flavors and techniques into its gastronomy. Salma Hage, a Lebanese author and cook, details her home country’s cuisine in her cookbook, “The Lebanese Kitchen.”

“Why did you make this?” “Cous… cous I want to.”

Our video director Dan already knew she’d make a recipe from Hage’s cookbook since we started our Cook the Book series. “I chose this because I really wanted to try my hand at making a dish that uses a lot of spices and fragrances to build flavor. I’ve also been craving Mediterranean food in general lately so it seemed like a good idea to make my own from scratch,” she explained. So she decided to make Lebanese Chicken Couscous.

To Dan’s surprise, the recipe was very prep heavy. So she spent a bulk of her cooking time just getting every ready. Though her biggest struggle was figuring our which ingredient went where. “This dish [had] a lot of different components and the recipe didn’t fully say which ingredient was supposed to go in which component. So I panicked.”

Dandarandan-dan—success!

But towards the end, Dan stuck to her gut, mixing things she thought would work well together. Everyone loved her final dish. The chicken was well-seasoned, and the couscous burst with flavor. (We even tried to recreate the couscous another time just because we wanted it again.)

Although Dan now only recommends the cookbook to someone who knows their way around the kitchen (” or someone who has zero knowledge but wants to challenge themselves… and has 3 hours to spare”), she admits that the experience helped her trust her instincts better. “Who knew I could actually prepare a full meal? This is coming from a girl who constantly burns bacon and still gets slight anxiety when cracking eggs. Look mom, I can cook-ish!”

Lebanese Chicken Couscous

From The Lebanese Kitchen by Salma Hage

  • Serves: 4 people
  • Active time: 1 hr
  • Total time: 1 hr
  • Difficulty: Easy

INGREDIENTS

Chicken

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 2 tbsp (clear) honey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1/2 inch/1.25 cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper

Couscous

  • Scant 1 cup (5 oz/150 g) giant couscous
  • Pinch of ground turmeric
  • Pinch of saffron dissolved in 2 tsp hot water
  • 4 scallions (spring onions), finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro (coriander)
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • Salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.
  2. Brush the chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a skillet or frying pan, add the chicken, skin side down, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until golden brown, then turn and cook for another 2 minutes.
  4. Remove the chicken from the pan and place in a roasting pan, skin side up.
  5. Pour over the honey and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
  6. Meanwhile, add the oil to the pan and heat.
  7. Add the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes until softened and lightly colored.
  8. Cook the couscous in plenty of salted boiling water for 6-8 minutes until tender but still firm to the bite.
  9. Drain well, tip into a serving dish, and drizzle with olive oil and add the remaining ingredients.
  10. Mix well.
  11. Remove the chicken from the oven, cut the chicken into slices, and put on a serving plate, topped with caramelized onions.
  12. Pour any remaining cooking juices over the chicken and serve immediately with the couscous.
Jica Simpas Jica Simpas

Jica hopes that by writing about food she'll actually learn how to cook. But for now, she'll happily just eat everything—especially cookies.

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