My love affair with Yotam Ottolenghi continues even though Yotam doesn’t know I exist. I fell in love with him while living in London in 2009 and fall more deeply each time I try one of his recipes. I guess I should clarify that my love for Ottolenghi is based solely on his recipes, and Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts & Honey is one of the best.
Here is his description of this dish found in Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi.
“This dish is inspired by a recipe from Claudia Roden’s classic book, Tamarind and Saffron (Viking, 1999). It is one of our favorites: it is easy to make, yet looks stunning, and has the most delicate and exotic combination of flavors (rose water, saffron, and cinnamon), which takes you straight to the famous Jemaa el Fna in Marrakech.”
In 2009, when I discovered this recipe, I was a good cook but had a fairly elementary knowledge of spices. As I was reading the cookbook, I came across a photo of Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts & Honey that caught my eye. This chicken recipe was unlike any chicken dish I had ever eaten. The list of ingredients included onions, cinnamon, lemon, ginger, saffron threads, black pepper, hazelnuts, rose water, and a few others. It sounded so interesting, unusual and delicious. After reading the recipe, I wanted to make it myself, but first had to figure out a few things.
I had no idea what saffron threads were, had never touched a hazelnut to my lips and thought rose water was used solely behind the ears. At the time, we lived in South Kensington in London and only a couple of miles from a spice shop I discovered in Portobello Market. I took out on foot in search of answers to my questions about these ingredients. A short time later, I left the store with all questions answered and a bag full of the needed ingredients.
The most important thing I can say about Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts & Honey (or London Chicken as we now call it) is this – it opened my life to a world of new flavors. Now, when I see an ingredient I know nothing about, I research it and ask more about it when I visit my favorite spice shop. I still have so much to learn, but now have an arsenal of spices and dried herbs on hand to use while cooking. I also began an herb garden a couple of years ago and expand it each year. It is so wonderfully rewarding using fresh herbs from my own garden.
I have experienced how the exotic combination of flavors took simple chicken to a dish worthy of the most elegant dinner party, a dish that has everyone trying to figure out exactly what is in the recipe and a dish that will quickly become a family favorite.
This is the dish that takes me back to my days in London. This is the dish that sends me to Marrakesh with one bite. This is the dish that still fuels my love affair with Yotam Ottolenghi.
A few of my other Ottolenghi-inspired recipes are Pomegranate-Pear Upside Cake, Sweet Potato & Honey Goat Cheese Pizza, Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake and Caramel Macadamia Cheesecake (the best cheesecake on the planet).
Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts & Honey
- 4 chicken breasts skinless & boneless (or your favorite chicken pieces or 1-large organic or free-range chicken, divided into quarters)
- 2 onions coarsely chopped
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1- teaspoon ground ginger do not substitute fresh ginger
- 1- teaspoon ground cinnamon
- A generous pinch of ?saffron threads
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 4 tablespoons cold water
- 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1- cup unskinned hazelnuts toasted and skinned
- 3 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1- tablespoon rose water optional
- Place chicken pieces, onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper in a large Ziploc bag. Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 375F/190C.
- Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Once cooled to touch, rub the nuts together between your hands to remove skins. (The nuts can be used with skins on, if desired.) Chop coarsely and set aside.
- Transfer chicken along with the marinade to a baking sheet large enough not to crowd the chicken. If skin is still on the chicken, place it skin side up.
- Roast chicken for 35 minutes.
- While chicken is roasting, combine honey, rose water (if using) and nuts.
- Remove chicken from oven and spread ¼ cup of nut mixture onto each breast.
- Return chicken to the oven for 5-10 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through and nuts are golden brown.
- (If needed, turn oven to 425F and cook long enough just to get more color on the nuts and chicken. Watch this step very closely so the hazelnuts don’t burn and chicken doesn’t overcook.)
- Transfer chicken to a serving dish and spoon remaining juices, nuts and onions over each breast.
I have made this dish with and without the rose water. I prefer it without, but others prefer it with. Either way, it is still an incredible chicken dish.