Israeli cous cous or ptitium is a type of toasted pasta shaped into little balls. It was developed between 1949-1959 as a wheat based substitute for rice. Ben Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister contacted a food manufacturer to develop it when rice supplies were scarce.
Despite the fact that I cook Latin American food for a living, I would have to say my comfort food is either Italian or Middle Eastern. I think I enjoy the idea of many dishes prepared and plopped in the middle of the table for all to share. In Middle Eastern cuisine I love the use of warm spices such as cumin and when it is combined with tangy flavours like preserved lemon or pomegranate, it really is a winning combination.
This dish was invented and prepared for filming for a competition I currently am in called eatliststar. It contains a few base elements such as za'atar and pomegranate molasses that are hard to come by in Singapore so I decided to make my own. Recipes for these are found at the bottom of this post.
Za'atar Chicken - Ingredients
8 chicken thighs, bone out, skin on or 4 chicken breasts, skin off
16g/4heaped teaspoons of za'atar spice mix
50g good extra virgin olive oil
4g/1tsp sea salt
Trim chicken of excess fat and sinew
Mix olive oil, salt and za’atar together and smother all over the chicken.
Allow to marinate while you prepare the salad
Once salad is prepared, heat fry pan over a medium heat. Fry the chicken (skin side down first) until golden, turn the chicken over and fry until cooked through
Set aside to allow to cool slightly. Cut thighs in half diagonally. If you are using chicken breast, cut into quarters.
Cous Cous Salad - Ingredients
160g Israeli cous cous
½ tsp/4g good sea salt
½ tsp or 130g large yellow capsicum
8pcs or 100g ruby red cherry tomatoes
15g flat leaf parsley leaves
15g mint leaves
30g of rocket
70g black or golden raisins
20g extra virgin olive oil
1 – 2 tbsp /5-8g pomegranate molasses
½- 1 tsp sea salt
Boil salt and water together in a saucepan.
Once the water is boiling add couscous, turn temperature down to low and cover with a lid
Allow to cook for 5-8minutes until couscous is tender
Drain couscous and rinse with cold water. Set aside in a large bowl
De seed and slice capsicum into rough 1cm size cubes
Cut cherry tomatoes into quarters
Roughly chop mint and parsley leaves
Add capsicum, tomatoes, raisins, herbs, rocket, olive oil and salt to the cooked couscous
Finally add the pomegranate molasses and plate onto serving dishes
Top the salad with the chicken and garnish with pomegranate seeds, a good spoon of labneh or yoghurt and a sprinkling of extra za’atar
You can also check out the video here.
* Substitute Notes
If you don;t have these exact ingredients on hand, you can add or play around with whatever you have. The za'atar mix can be replaced with any kind of spice blend and pomegranate molasses can be substituted for a good thick balsamic. The Israeli cous cous can be substituted for regular cous cous, barley, small sized pasta or even quinoa
Za’atar is the name of a Middle Eastern herb and the name of a spice mix. Maimonides, a 12th Century Jewish philosopher sait it was fantastic brain food. Variations use fresh thyme, marjoram or oregano. This is a dry spice mix which I can keep in my pantry to last a little longer.
The Recipe - makes about 100g
4tblsp/40g white sesame seeds, 4tblsp/25g sumac, 2tsp/8g sea salt, 2tblsp/12g cumin seeds, 4tblsp/10g dried thyme
Toast the sesame seeds until golden, set aside and allow them to cool. Toast the cumin seeds. Rely on your sense of smell rather than on the colour for the cumin. Blend all the ingredients together and store in a sealed glass jar.
Pomegranate Molasses is a sweet and sour syrup that is used in many middle eastern countries where pomegranates are widely available. It differs in flavour profile depending on the type of pomegranates used.
The Recipe - makes about 180mls
330mls pomegranate juice, 45g lemon juice, 60g sugar
Put all the ingredients in a deep heavy base saucepan. Boil until the sugar is dissolved. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for about 40 minutes until it is reduced to a nice syrupy consistency. Allow to cool slightly before pouring into a clean glass jar with a tight seal.