Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Indian-Spice Chicken with Spicy Pepper Relish and Quinoa with Peas

Adapted from Jamie Oliver...

I love Jamie Oliver.  There.  I said it.  He's adorable to watch, doesn't fuss too much with the food or the presentation and yet everything looks mouth-watering, colorful and so unbelievably appetizing.  I can almost smell the amazing aroma wafting from my television screen.  My favorite show of his is his 15-minute meals. Somehow (and I don't know how he does it...) he manages to put a gorgeous and well-balanced meal on the table in just under 15 minutes.  I've adapted one of his meals to suit my needs (quinoa instead of rice and chicken instead of lamb chops) and made it this week for dinner one night, and while it took me about 20 minutes instead of Jamie's 15, it was a super hit and there was not a single morsel left over.

What initially drew me to this recipe was Jamie's creativity with spices and flavors.  I've always been drawn to interesting spices.  My spice cabinet is filled with a whole array of not-your-usual stuff.  While I have friends that get by with just garlic powder, paprika and cinnamon, I love adding a pinch of saffron, a dash of cardamom or a shake of Chinese five-spice to my baking and cooking in an attempt to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.  I come by my love for spices honestly.  My mother probably has more spices than anyone else I know and she loves to share her findings with me.  I've tasted her oregano straight from the Greek islands which made me want to throw out all ordinary dried oregano, and she's given me no less than five kinds of flavored flaked sea salt, from chili salt to rosemary salt to the most unusual black salt.  I suspect that in a past life, she might have been a rather active trader on the oriental spice route....

Since I teach everyday until after 6, I'm often at a loss what to serve for dinner and I feel stressed to get something nutritious on the table in a relatively short time.  Due to the time constraints, I usually grab something tried and true - like whole grain pasta with jarred tomato sauce and I might throw in some fried onion and a can of chick peas to elevate it from something boring to something a little more unusual, or I'll mix up some grainy mustard with a dollop of honey and rub it over chicken and shove it in the oven.  But I rarely get super-creative when time is of the essence.  Now I'm starting to think a little differently.

This recipe mostly consists of ingredients you have readily on hand.  The only item I had to purchase for this dinner besides boneless chicken thighs was a jar of roasted red peppers, which is an item I don't know how I've lived without.  While this recipe calls for hot peppers, you can adjust the heat to your liking, but don't leave them out!  

Indian-Spice Chicken with Spicy Pepper Relish and Quinoa with Peas

Serves 6

1 kilo of boneless chicken thighs
1 T. olive oil
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/8 tsp. hot pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
Ground pepper to taste
Splash of balsamic vinegar - about 1- 2 T.
1 T. silaan

1 T. olive oil
1 1/2 large yellow onionse, cut into small chunks
About 1" hot green pepper, minced really small (you can add more if you like your food hot...)
4 roasted red peppers from a jar, cut into chunks
A small nob of fresh finger (about 1" - 1 1/2" chunk), sliced thinly
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 c. quinoa, rinsed very well
1/2 c. frozen baby peas
1/4 tsp. salt

Combine all spices in a small bowl.  On a large cutting board, lay out all the chicken and sprinkle with half the spice mix.  Turn over and sprinkle remaining spices over the chicken.

Place quinoa in a small pot and add 3/4 c. water and salt.  Cover and bring to a boil then reduce heat to a low simmer and set oven timer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, set two frying pans on the stove on high heat.  Add the oil to each pan.  When pans are piping hot, add the vegetables to one and the chicken to the other.  Keep stirring vegetables with wooden spoon until vegetables start to brown.  When chicken is browned on one side (about 6 - 7 minutes) then flip over using metal tongs or two forks and let cook on the other side until nicely browned and middle is no longer pink.

When oven timer beeps, fluff the quinoa with a fork making sure there's not water left at the bottom of the pot and quinoa is done.  Turn off heat and add frozen peas.  Mix in, season with salt and pepper, cover and set aside.

Add the balsamic vinegar and silaan to the hot pan with the chicken and after a minute or so, turn chicken over until evenly browned.  

Put quinoa on each plate, top with spiced chicken and spoon vegetable relish over the chicken.  You can sprinkle a couple fresh sprigs of chopped fresh herbs like parsley or coriander on top if you like.  Serve!


  1. Interesting recipe. Have you ever cooked with Hawaj? My daughter just introduced me to it last night in a really great Sephardi vegetarian soup. It has a lot of those ingredients listed - cumin, curry, tumeric, cardamon...and I believe it was the first time I ever really tasted it and loved it. Yes, I also enjoy learning about new spices.