Harissa pan-grilled chicken

imageI made this for dinner last night and it was finger-licking delicious! The testament: My 9 year old daughter loving every morsel on her plate- Mummy, this chicken is very good!! And she’s got a palate which is very difficult to please, let me tell you. Apart from its aromatic flavours, it was easy to make and required the usual prep time for marinating chicken, and less than half an hour to cook it. The boneless thighs actually married well with the harissa. If one has all the spices in their magic ‘masala’ pantry, all we need is a small food processor, a ziploc bag and a wide sauté non stick pan. No chopping and mess free cooking, is what I experienced while making this delightful dinner!

Harissa is a spicy and aromatic chile paste that’s a widely used staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. Harissa recipes vary between countries and regions, but a standard version includes a blend of hot chile peppers, garlic, olive oil and spices, like cumin, coriander, caraway and fennel. It’s known for its heat factor. But in my case, since I have to cater to the delicate palate of my little one, I toned down the heat. I just added a dash of cayenne pepper and red chile flakes. I opted for milder chile powder and dried New Mexico red chile, which is mild in heat but immense in flavour. It’s a very versatile condiment, so one can adjust the spice levels according to one’s capacity to tolerate heat! Play around, experiment and go with whatever floats your boat 🙂

Dinner last night was certainly protein-packed. Apart from the chicken, I served it along with our household favourite Indian lentils and basmati rice. It turned out to be a great combination. So I have also enclosed the recipe of my simple Indian split pea lentil soup, with a tempering of ghee, cumin and red chillies.

Servings 4-6

Ingredients :

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs – 2 lbs, about 8 pieces

1 cup harissa (ingredients and recipe below)

For the harissa paste :

2 tsp.cumin seeds

1 tsp.caraway seeds

1 tsp.coriander seeds

1 tsp.fennel seeds

1/2 tsp.cayenne

1 dried New Mexican chile, deseeded. Or our very own Indian Kashmiri red chile

1 tbsp.paprika

2 tsp.minced garlic

2 tbsp.lemon juice

2 tbsp.apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tsp.salt, or according to taste

Combine all seeds for harissa in a small skillet and toast over medium heat until fragrant, about a minute. imageLet cool. In a small grinder, add along with all other harissa ingredients.image

Grind to a paste.image


Place chicken thighs in ziploc bag. imageAdd the harissa paste and massage well till all the chicken pieces are well coated. Refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.

Heat large skillet on high heat. Add the chicken pieces and let brown on one side, say 2-3 minute. imageFlip chicken to other side. image

imageLower heat to low, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, till chicken is tender. The chicken will leave it’s tasty juices. If you like, you can serve and eat the chicken at this stage.image Or else, fry for another 5 minutes or so on medium heat till juices dry out and the chicken is brown and grilled dry. image

Squeeze some lemon juice and garnish with slices of red onions. It’s now ready to hit the table!image

For the lentils :

image1/2 cup yellow split peas

1/2 cup green split peas

Wash and soak the lentils in water for an hour. Drain and set aside.

I use my handy Indian old-fashioned pressure cooker to cook lentils. imageAdd a pinch turmeric, salt and 3 cups water. Cook till lentils are super tender.image


imageFor the tempering, heat a teaspoon of ghee or clarified butter. Add 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds. When they start spluttering, add a pinch of red chile powder. Add it to the lentils, cover for a few minutes. Serve hot with rice!image

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