Syrian chicken

My secret recipe love affair with Karen Martini continues…well it’s not so secret really. And from all the food blogs I read – it seems I am not alone.

Anyway back to the recipe. It was cooked for me earlier in the year when I was in Melbourne, and I fell in love with it. We were away in a particularly cold part of Melbourne that weekend. My softened Sydney-sider blood was pathetically having trouble adjusting as we flew into the cold, pouring rain and howling wind. But our final destination was a warm house filled with candles, my family, and the magical, exotic smells of Syrian Chicken. Order was restored and I was warm and happy. After eating it that night in Melbourne, and declaring it the best dish ever made, I had a crack at it on my weekend to Berry. It’s a heavenly, rich, spicy dish, that is surprisingly easy to make, and quick to cook.

The good stuff


It’s a Karen Martini recipe, which was featured in the Age back in 2006. It serves 4. On our weekend away, I doubled the quantities, and it worked very well. If leftovers survive, this also tastes amazing the following day.


2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
Size 14-16 free-range chicken, cut into 8 pieces (I use thighs and some drumsticks for the bone flavour infusion) [you can also use chicken pieces rather than have a chook chopped up]
100ml olive oil
2 brown onions, thickly sliced
100g fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
5 cloves garlic, bruised with the back of a knife
2 small red chillies, split
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 pinches saffron threads
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
5 sprigs thyme
1 lemon, juiced and zest finely grated
2 tbsp honey
100g currants
2 tbsp vegetable stock powder
1/2 bunch coriander leaves
Cooked rice, to serve
Green beans are also good with this

What to do

Getting the chook organised: find yourself a biggish ziplock bag (or plastic bag). Put the salt, cumin, cinnamon, pepper and turmeric into it, and get out the chook. Add the chicken pieces to the plastic bag, and shake it around – to ensure all the chicken pieces are coated well in the spice mixture.

Spice girls

Spice girls: heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan over high heat. Put the chicken in, and brown on all sides. This doesn’t take long – a few minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Then add the onions, ginger, garlic and chillies to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, adding a little more oil, if necessary. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cumin seeds and thyme and cook for 2 minutes.

More spice girlsMore spice girls

More spice girls: get the chicken back in the pan, and add the lemon juice and zest, honey, currants, stock powder and enough water to just cover chicken. Put the lid on the pot and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through and sauce is slightly reduced. I ended up cooking mine a little longer – probably around the 20 minute mark.

Serving: stir in the coriander and serve with rice and beans. Try and have only one helping.

Syrian chickenSyrian chicken