Wednesday 8 October 2014

Griddled chicken with Harissa

I recently had the pleasure of attending the "Challock Chilli Fest", where loads of chilli-themed merchandise was available for purchase. One of the things we bought was a jar of Harissa, a thick paste made mainly with chillis, which is used in many parts of North Africa for flavouring meat dishes (and sometimes used as a dip, in the manner of Hummus). Just for the record, the Harissa was manufactured and sold by Cafe Mauresque, based  in the appropriately-named Butchery Lane in Canterbury, Kent.

Last weekend I used some of it in a dish of griddled chicken.

This is my recipe (serves 2): "Griddled Chicken with Harissa"

Cut two chicken breasts into large chunks and marinate them (covered, in the fridge) for several hours in a spicy marinade. This is the marinade I made:
3 tsp Harissa
One fresh red chilli, de-seeded and chopped
Half tsp Chilli flakes
Half tsp ground Cumin
Half tsp ground Cloves
Half tsp ground Allspice
One tbsp vegetable oil

Meanwhile, make a tomato sauce. I used about 500g of home-grown tomatoes, cooked up with a chopped onion and another chilli (optional, of course!), and a splash of water. After cooking for a few minutes I used our "Mouli-Legumes" to sieve out the skins of the tomatoes and then cooked the resultant juice for about 15 minutes further to reduce it to a sauce texture. It was then set aside for later.

Since the chicken portions I was using had been "skin on", I removed the skin and flattened it out, and then roasted it in a hot oven for a short while (probably about half an hour?) until it was brown and crispy - like pork crackling. Jane tells me that this stuff is called "Chicken Popcorn" because the skin puffs up rather like popcorn does... I wanted it to be the garnish for my dish.

Later, about 30 minutes before serving time, heat a griddle pan until smoking hot. Don't add any oil!
When the pan is ready, griddle the chicken pieces, turning occasionally with tongs.

Meanwhile, re-heat your tomato sauce, being aware that with the griddle pan being so hot the chicken will cook very quickly. You are looking for a bit of blackening on the outside of the meat, which will give it a rather smoky flavour, but do ensure that it is cooked right through before serving. I cut open one or two pieces with a knife and fork, just to be sure. When the meat is cooked, transfer it to a dish.

Crispy chicken "popcorn" crackling is visible at the right of this photo
Now finish any accompaniments that you wish to serve. I served a bowl of Bulghur (cracked wheat), flavoured with raisins, flaked Pistachio nuts and loads of chopped Parsley.

Finally, pour the sauce over the chicken, and serve, topped with the crackling / "popcorn".

It's not illustrated here, but with this meal we also ate one of my Mesclun-based salads, with lettuce, endive, radicchio, landcress, rocket, mustard, baby Pak Choi, and Celery Leaf.

I know that my regular readers will be thinking "There he goes again. Mark is obsessed with chillis!", but in truth we don't use a lot of chillis in our cooking, and neither Jane nor I likes searingly-hot chillis. We do however like the taste and slight tingle that a small amount of chilli brings to a dish. We felt that the Café Mauresque harissa had an excellent level of both heat and flavour. It was just right for us.


  1. It sounds delicious. And yes we do think you are obsessed with chilies :> But is that a bad thing? They used to be one of my favorite ingredients when I could eat them.

  2. Another delicious looking dish. I've never cooked the chicken skin like that, I'll have to try it.

  3. Looks fab, just the sort of thing I'd love to make.

  4. It looks great Mark, your sauce is such a lovely colour.

  5. Love it! The hotter the better!

  6. Looks good so now I'm showing my ignorance in asking what is harrissa
    made from?

    1. Sue, you might have guessed it - chillis! (and a few herbs and spices). Follow the link in my post to the Wikipedia entry to find out more.

  7. Hmm... I was thinking about what to do for dinner tonight. I think you might just have sorted it!
    Although I'll possibly go easier on the chilli front ;D


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