Sunday supper: Za’atar roast chicken, kale salad & Piri Piri sauce

Piri Piri sauce by the james kitchen
Piri Piri sauce, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.


Two weekends ago we had a very nice and simple Sunday supper: Roast chicken with Za’atar, the fragrant Middle Eastern spice blend which combines woodsy thyme, tart sumac & nutty sesame seeds (Za’atar is very easy to find nowadays or to make your own, recipe here), sweet potatoes, a spicy Piri Piri sauce (listen, I do not claim this to be the authentic recipe, this is more ‘a sort of Piri Piri’ sauce) and to round it all of with a kale salad in a creamy-garlicky Caesar dressing with crisp Panko on top. We liked the curly kale salad that much (I did mention the dressing, did I?) that we build last Sunday’s supper around it as well and I am happy to report that it is good company to Macella Hazan & April Bloomfield’s gorgeous Veal shank with white wine & shallots (this is a video), too.

We Germans know or eat curly kale (Grünkohl) mostly as a hot dish, cooked with potatoes and smoked or cured meats & sausages or in particular area of Northern Germany it comes with a Barley sausage called Pinkel which is almost vegetarian and tastes much better than it looks. Some plates heaving with the works illustrate accurately what people commonly associate with German food but done right (and in smaller portions) Grünkohl is a fantastic dish and can be every bit as elegant and refined & veerrry tasty on top. Note to self: Better make it soon then.

Anyway, eating raw curly kale (Grünkohl) or black Tuscan kale (Lacinato kale, Cavolo nero, Palmkohl) might still pose as quite a discovery or novelty, I think, but even if you are a little timid and dub it as a bit too healthy & fibrous for you, let me assure you, slathering it in a Caesar dressing certainly makes up for that. See it as an initiation drug. The massaging (weird, I know, though effective) takes care of the hard fibres and softens both kale and hands.

Recipes in German: see next post / Rezepte auf Deutsch: siehe hier.

Sunday supper:
Za’atar roast chicken with sweet potato wedges, Piri Piri sauce & garlicky kale ‘Caesar’ salad

Za’atar Roast Chicken:
1 whole chicken (around 1.5kg or 3lbs, free-range or organic)
2-3 teaspoons Za’atar
salt & pepper
olive oil

Take your chicken about 1 hour to 30 minutes before you want to cook it out of the fridge. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400° F).

Drizzle some olive oil over the chicken, season with salt & pepper and sprinkle generously with the Za’atar spice blend. Place in the oven and roast for about 1 hour until the juices run clear (cut into the space between the legs & body). Serve whole & carve or cut into pieces.

Shortcut Piri Piri sauce:
adapted from Food & Wine Januar 2013; shortcut: I substituted the spicy Harissa paste instead of chopping various chiles

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red (bell) pepper, finely chopped (if you want it even faster, buy fire-roasted peppers in oil and blend)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup (60ml) water
2 tablespoons (or to taste) spicy Harissa
salt & pepper

Heat the oil in a pan, add the pepper, onion & garlic and cook over low heat for about 12-15 minutes until they are soft. Stir from time to time. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor, add the rest of the ingredients and blend into a puree. Season, adjust the spicyness to your taste and decant into a bowl or glass. Leave for one hour for the flavours to meld.

Sweet potato wedges:

1 sweet potato per person
olive oil

Wash the sweet potatoes and cut it (skin on) into wedges, toss with olive oil and season with salt. Place onto a preheated baking sheet and roast in the oven (200°C or 400° F) along the chicken for about 30-40 minutes depending on the thickness of your wedges. Stir a couple of times.

Garlicky kale salad with parmesan & panko:

This wonderful kale salad has curly kale cut into ribbons, squeezed = massaged & tossed in a lovely Caesar(-ish) dressing with roasted garlic and is finally sprinkled with parmesan and crunchy panko breadcrumbs. The recipe can be found on Tori Avey’s blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen.


making labneh by the james kitchen
making labneh, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.
 This is such an easy way to make cheese and such an interesting one, too. Labneh is an Arab cheese, Yotam Ottolenghi (Ottolenghi) uses goat’s milk or full-fat cow’s milk yoghurt but advises against greek or set yoghurts. Diana Henry (Salt, sugar, smoke) on the other side, uses greek yoghurt. I have used the turkish yoghurt (10% fat, without gelantine) which I buy at my local Turkish grocer in 1 kg containers. The reason for giving a recipe for ¾ of this container is simply that most of the times I skim a little bit of and use it for other purposes like making a spicy dip or to tone down a very spicy curry or if we want it for breakfast.We had labneh as a starter or as part of a simple supper with mezze and flat bread and I have given it prime protein place in my lunch salad at the same time as to calm down the spiciness of some leftover lentil thing which appeared on the same salad. Photo will follow as it was a magnificent beauty and an exceptional salad, which will most definitely appear on our table again.


750g or 26 ½ oz turkish or greek yoghurt (10%)
¾ teaspoon salt
Olive oil
spices (like sumac, cardamom, cumin, fennel or cayenne, smoked paprika) or herbs (like dried mint, tarragon, parsley, chives etc.)You could use a larger amount of yoghurt like 1kg or 37 oz if that is the container size you can buy, simple add a little more salt, like 1 teaspoon. Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and line it with a double layer of muslin or a cheesecloth. Pour the yoghurt onto the cloth and leave to drip for a while. Pick up the edges and tie them together with a knot and use a piece of string to further secure it and tie a loop, so you can suspend the cloth over a bowl on a hook or something. I used a tall vase from Ikea and created a cross with two chopsticks on the top to hold the muslin. Leave in the fridge for 48 hours so the yoghurt can lose all excess liquid and turn into something like a savoury cream cheese, remotely tasting of a salty lassi. No surprise, same ingredients.

Even if left in the fridge for another day, there is no harm done. Then unfold the muslin and you will have a nice ball of labneh with an intricate pattern. You could use it already like this and place it on a roughly hewn wooden board with spices and herbs for everyone to sprinkle over cut of chunks for themselves – this would be great for a party or as an appetizer.

Otherwise proceed as follows: Roll the labneh into little balls the size of a walnut, either place them like this in a sterilized jar and cover with olive oil to preserve (this way it will keep for weeks) or roll them in the spice or herb of your choice and do likewise (if you are using fresh herbs then the cheese might not keep so very long).