Quick and summery midweek dinner with Middle Eastern flavours.
In summer, I prefer my food light and simple. With a bounty of vegetables at the peak of their season, much of it happens to be vegetarian. If meat is involved, the same formula applies: light and simple. Clean flavours, with plenty of fresh, seasonal vegetables alongside.
Last week, I couldn’t help but buy a kilo of podded peas from the weekly market. Before moving to Turkey, I always used to walk past the little packets of green garden peas, instead opting for something slightly less humble. Recently, however, I’ve taken a liking to the sweetness they add to many dishes. As with most things food, if you don’t like something it’s most probably because you haven’t been able to figure out how to do it properly yet. This year, it seems I’ve cracked the green garden pea code. And, of course, a sprinkling of these beautiful green pearls doesn’t hurt the aesthetics of any dish, either.
The peas work really well with chicken. For this dish, I’ve added a handful of spices typical of the Middle East – cinnamon, coriander, cumin – to really bring some flavour to the chicken. The sweetness and slight crunch of the peas provide a wonderful contrast that makes the dish both lighter and more wholesome at the same time. Sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but try it and I’m sure you’ll get what I mean.
I happened to have a small amount of leftover chickpeas lying around, so I chucked those into the pot as well. You don’t have to – they neither hurt nor elevate the dish. Serve with a good portion of rice – the Turkish way of frying a little broken pasta in butter before adding the rice works particularly well here. Serves two and can easily be doubled to serve more.
Summery chicken and pea stew
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 0,5 red chili, thinly sliced (optional)
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 4 chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite-size pieces
- 150 g garden peas, fresh or frozen
- (a handful of cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained if from tinned – optional)
- 1 tsp Turkish chili flakes (pul biber)
- 0.5 lemon, grated zest and juice
- salt and pepper
- Fry the onions in olive oil in a thick based pot or pan over a medium heat, stirring regularly, until softened but not brown, 8-10 minutes.
- Add the chili (if using), garlic and spices and fry for another couple of minutes, continuing to stir regularly.
- Turn up the heat and add the chicken. Fry until the chicken starts caramelising, stirring regularly.
- Add water to nearly cover the chicken, 100-200 ml, depending on the size of your pot or pan, and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to low, cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Add the peas, chickpeas (if using) and chili flakes. Gently mix and simmer until the peas are done, 3-4 minutes. The peas should still have a slight bite to them.
- Add lemon zest and juice. Season. Serve warm.
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