This is a good way to use those incredibly useful packs of chicken thighs. I find I often reach for the in the supermarket, particularly when I lack inspiration and just want to know that there will be something for supper. They are easier to deal with than breasts, really. So much more forgiving as they don’t really overcook and dry out despite being off the bone so you can be a little more laissez-faire with your timings and not be punished for it.
This marinade is just a suggestion and a classic one at that. Yoghurt is a wonderful tenderiser for all sorts of meat and a great vehicle for flavour. Harissa, the classic North African fiery paste works beautifully here as the yoghurt calms it all down and the chicken loves the chilli heat and spicy flavour. Add in more garlic, herbs, any citrus you like. Or leave out the harissa and use toasted coriander, fennel or cumin seed, ground up in pestle and mortar and perhaps with some tumeric in there as well. Just remember to season well – the chicken will be so much the better for that.
The preserved lemon dressing is easy to make as you just buy some good quality preserved lemons (belazu are the ones to look out for) and just use the rind. Some people save the flesh for other things but I tend not to keep it. The fennel and orange salad is on this site if you put it in search. The olives work well or just leave them out. Also if you don’t have the pomegranate molasses just add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice instead and adjust with a little honey.
4 – 8 chicken thighs, skinless or boneless (depends on hunger level)
4 tablespoons natural yoghurt
2 – 4 tablespoons harissa paste (start with less, add according to taste)
1 lime, rind and juice
Sea salt and black pepper
Fresh mint, coriander, parsley and/or fennel herb
Olive or rapeseed oil for cooking
2 preserved lemons, rind only
1 tablespoon cider or white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons runny honey
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons liquid from the preserved lemon jar
1 heaped teaspoon za’atar
Sea salt and black pepper
Mix the marinade ingredients together and taste. Adjust the seasoning and add more harissa if you think you need it. Trim the chicken of any fat and bash to flatten any very fat bits. Put them into the yoghurt and leave to marinade for at least an hour or overnight.
Make the dressing by finely chopping the lemon rind. Put it into a bowl and whisk in the vinegar, a pinch of salt, the honey, za’atar and then the oil. Finally whisk in the lemon liquid and taste, adjusting the seasoning. Leave to let the flavours develop and the za’atar to soften.
Have your fennel and orange salad ready on each plate or on one big serving platter.
Heat a griddle pan and add a little olive or rapeseed oil. Once the oil has heated up add each piece of chicken and leave until a crust has formed. You may need to do this in two batches. You can finish the chicken in the oven or cook them on top of the stove. If cooking in the oven have it heated to 180c (fan) and have a baking tray ready to receive the chicken. Sear it on both sides so well marked and move to the tray, then bake for a further fifteen minutes or until cooked through. or just turn the chicken over and move the pan to a lower heat so that the chicken can cook through without scorching.
Once the juices are running clear, let the chicken rest for five minutes before serving with the salad and the dressing drizzled around it. Add lots of extra fresh mint/coriander/parsley/fennel. A scattering of sumac is a nice addition.