Sweet and spicy

This enticing combination of tastes and textures comes from North Africa. The mix of honey, saffron and nuts is common in cooking from Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, and will ensure that this splendid meal becomes a regular item on your family menu.

To make honey and saffron chicken for four, you will need: 

  • 8-10 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
  • 2 tablespoons of rose water
  • 80g of honey
  • 120g cashews
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of coarse salt
  • 1 lemon
  • 8-10 saffron threads
  • 2 onions
  • 4 spring onions
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

This meal is a variation on roast chicken. The big difference is the marinade. Begin by squeezing the juice from the lemon.
Peel and thinly slice the onions. Select a dish big enough to contain the chicken pieces. In the dish, combine the chicken thighs, salt, pepper, sliced onions, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, ginger, saffron and cinnamon. Ensure that the
marinade is well mixed and covers all surfaces of the chicken thighs. Place the dish in the fridge and let the marinade do its work for a couple of hours.

A word on saffron. Saffron is bloody expensive. But, you use very little at a time and the effect – both visual and aromatic – is well worth the cost. Next, roast the raw cashew nuts in the oven at 190°C until lightly browned, which will produce an unevenly coloured product. Or you can amaze your friends by nuking the nuts with an electric heat gun.

Place the raw nuts in a stainless steel pot. Stir from time to time while roasting them in the air stream of the heat gun. This method will produce well-roasted, uniformly-coloured cashews. Stop the process when the colour is light brown all over.
Chop the roasted cashews roughly into quarters. Select a roasting pan big enough to contain the chicken thighs in a single layer. Place them skin-side up, pour all the marinade over them and let them roast in the oven at 180°C for 30 to 40 minutes.

While this is going on, mix the chopped roasted cashews, the honey and the rose water in a bowl to form a dense paste.
Rose water is an essential part of North African cooking and can be found in Asian supermarkets in the bigger cities. Don’t be tempted to leave it out. It adds welcome complexity to the final outcome.

Remove the roasted chicken thighs from the oven but leave them in position on the pan. Spoon a layer of the nut, honey and rose water paste over each chicken thigh. Return the pan to the oven for a final 5 to 10 minutes by which time the chicken should be cooked through and the cashew nuts transformed from light brown to an enticing gold. This meal goes very well with basmati rice and a crisp green salad. Immediately before serving, garnish each thigh with some finely chopped spring onion.

Contact David Basckin at [email protected]. Please state ‘Real cooking’ in the subject line of your email.