Chicken with harissa

Chicken pieces are ideal in the hurried kitchens of working people. Here’s a quickish dinner for three or four people complete with potatoes and a revved-up sauce. All in one roasting pan…

Chicken with harissa
Photo: Peter Whitfield. Styling Marelise Scheepers
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To make this meal, you will need:

  • 9-12 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch of spring onions
  • Black pepper, coarsely and freshly ground
  • Salt
  • 3 or 4 redskinned potatoes
  • 1 lemon for zest and juice

Harissa, for the hot marinade

  • 10 fresh red chillies
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon each of coriander, cumin and caraway seeds, unground to start with
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste or concentrate
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt


Yoghurt, mint and garlic for the final touch

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  • 80ml plain yoghurt
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • 1 peeled clove of garlic

Let’s start with the harissa, of which there are as many recipes as there are fish in the sea, birds in the sky or chillies in Durban. Begin with fresh, not dried, chillies. Remove and discard the pips. Peel the cloves of garlic, which can comfortably be increased to double the number.

Pour the coriander, cumin and caraway seeds into a dry, clean frying pan and bring up the heat. Shake the pan to toast the spices evenly, and as soon as they start to darken and the air to suffuse with their scent, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Grind them to dust in an electric grinder with the dried mint. Pour everything into a processor and reduce to a thick paste.

Arrange the thighs and the quartered, unpeeled (or peeled, if you like) red (or brown) potatoes in one layer in a large roasting pan lubricated with 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Coat the thighs and potatoes in a thin layer of harissa. The remaining harissa will last in the fridge for a fortnight or two under a layer of additional olive oil.

Sprinkle the zest of a fresh lemon plus some coarsely ground black pepper over everything in the roasting pan. Stick this into an oven at 220°C (not a misprint) for 15 minutes. At this point, turn the chicken and potatoes over, then continue to roast at
the same thermonuclear heat for an additional 20 to 25 minutes. Remove, squeeze a little lemon juice over everything and garnish with the chopped green tops of the spring onions.

Oh dear, forgot to mix the yoghurt. In the wink of an eye, or maybe two slow winks, grate the garlic into the yoghurt, tear by hand some well-washed fresh mint leaves, and stir well. Spoon a teaspoon of the hastily made yoghurt mixture over each chicken and potato piece and serve to ecstatic applause.

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