Palomar Chicken with Olives and Tomato Sauce with Saffron Chelow

Written by: Georgina Ingham | Posted: 20-09-2016

Palomar Chicken with Olives and Tomato Sauce with Saffron Chelow
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If you were to read the recent Guardian article about The Palomar, you might think their recent book wouldn’t or even shouldn’t be that popular - “Sometimes you see [potential customers] think, ‘This looks like a cool place.’ Then they read the menu and look like this” – an Edvard Munch mask of terror. “Or you can see them thinking, ‘Maybe later…’" For me though it has been one of the most breathlessly awaited cookbook of the year.


Georgina Ingham | Culinary Travels Photograph - The Palomar Cookbook


The Palomar claims to serve “the food of modern day Jerusalem.” and this takes the form of a fusion of Arabian, North African, Levantine and Spanish influenced dishes. If you enjoy Middle Eastern food, enjoy Yotam Ottolenghi and Honey & Co recipes, you’ll almost certainly love The Palomar Cookbook - it is as much a pleasure to read as one may read a novel, as it is to cook from, provided you enjoy learning about a recipes history and the culture behind the food.


Georgina Ingham | Culinary Travels Photograph - Palomar Chicken with Olives and Tomato Sauce with Personalised Culinary Travels Chopping Board


With 4 chicken pieces and a large punnet of Kasbah olives sitting in the fridge the first recipe to take my eye and become dinner was Chicken in Green Olive and Tomato Sauce. Kasbar olives are from The Real Olive Company and contain pitted green & Kalamata olives in rose water and spice infused oil, I love just munching on them with a chunk of lavash for a snack but they worked perfectly here. The original recipe advises you blanch the olives in several changes of boiling water before adding them to the sauce but I omitted this step entirely and just tipped them from packet to pan, oils and all included.


This dish is based on one that the author remembers fondly as one his mother used to prepare a lot when he was young. She most often served it sans meat as a vegetable side dish. Truth be told this smokey, lightly spiced dish would be a true delight served that way, either alongside some roast chicken or lamb or simply with some Middle Eastern flatbreads for mopping up the delectable sticky sauce. You could use strips of chicken or 'pull' the leftover Sunday roast into shreds to fold through the sauce to make it much more time and budget friendly than adding large chicken quarters as I did. It's a highly adaptable sauce. 


I decided to serve the chicken with some saffron chelow because I simply cannot resist the lure of the crispy, chewy tahdig. This time I used a recipe from the beautiful The Saffron Tales by Yasmin Khan. Taghdig is the saffron infused rice crust that forms at the bottom of the pan.


Georgina Ingham | Culinary Travels Photograph - A spoonful of beautiful, burnished red and yellow, Saffron Strands


According to Khan "Always looking for a way in which to insert some glamour into any occasion, Iranians like to serve their rice dishes turned upside down so they look like a elegant rice cake." They do indeed look beautiful when turned out successfully, ready to crack open at the table. 


Georgina Ingham | Culinary Travels Photograph - Sweet Saffron Chelow: The ultimate Iranian rice dish


You could easily swap the sweet, saffron scented chelow for plain boiled basmati rice, couscous, freekh or even creamy mashed potatoes. The chicken with olives and tomato sauce would work perfectly well with any of those accompaniments. 


Georgina Ingham | Culinary Travels Photograph - Palomar Chicken with Olives & Saffron Tales Chelow. A true flavour of the Middle East


The dish takes around an hour to prep and an hour to cook but it tastes like you've been slaving away for hours over a hot stove - that's got to be a win win situation hasn't it?  

Chicken with Olives & Tomatoes

This dish is adapted from a recipe in The Palomar Cookbook. It is a Middle Eastern fusion recipe that is as happy served with rice as it is with mashed potatoes or even just with some crusty bread to mop up all the delicious sauce.
4 Chicken quarters (breast & wing)
2 tablespoons Baharat spice mix
3 tablespoons Ras el hanout spice mix
2 tablespoons Olive oil
3 tablespoons Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Rose water
250g Olives (pitted)
2 Onions, finely diced.
1 teaspoon Aleppo/Pul Biber chili flakes
8 Garlic cloves
750ml Chicken stock
2 400g tins Tinned tomatoes
1 teaspoon Date syrup
A large handful Parsley, finely chopped
A large handful Coriander, finely chopped
1. Start by rubbing the chicken with 1 tablespoon each of the baharat and ras el hanout spice mixes and some salt, then set aside while you start the sauce. (You can do this the day before, then cover and leave the chicken thighs or legs in the fridge overnight – they’ll be even tastier.)
2. Heat a wide, place the chicken pieces skin side down into the pan. Let them slowly render their fat, then turn up the heat slightly to brown then turn over and brown the other side. Remove from the pan and set aside while you prepare the sauce.
3. Add the olive oil to the pan over a medium heat and saute the onions and saute with a pinch of salt and the chilli flakes for about 10–15 minutes until the onions are nicely caramelized.
4. When the onions have caramelised, add the garlic and saute for 2–3 more minutes.
5. Add the stock to your pan of onions and deglaze the pan. Allow the stock to bubble gently and reduce by half in volume.
6. Add the tomatoes, rose water, date syrup, olives, lemon juice and rest of the spices to the pan and stir. Allow to come to the boil and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
7. Place the chicken pieces skin side up into the sauce and allow to cook for around 45 minutes - 1 hour until the chicken pieces are cooked through.
8. Turn the heat off and leave the dish to rest for around 20-30 minutes before serving, which binds all the flavours amazingly.
9. Garnish with the chopped herbs and serve.
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Yield: Serves 4
Georgina Ingham | Culinary Travels Saffron Tales Chelow


Saffron Chelow

As there is no specific water-to-rice ratio you can cook any amount of rice by following this method, you’ll just need a large, non-stick, pan with a snugly fitting lid.
For a vegan version of this Persian rice, simply omit the butter and substitute with vegetable oil of your choice.
350g Basmati rice
1/4 teaspoon Saffron
20g Butter
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1 tablespoon Vegetable oil
1. Wash your rice under cold running water until the water runs clear. This removes the excess starch which will help your grains separate and stay fluffy.
2. Soak the rice in a large bowl of water for about 20 minutes
3. Bring a large pot of water to the boil with 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the rice and boil for 4-5 minutes until the rice is half cooked – you want it to be soft on the outside but still firm in the middle. Drain and rinse the rice with some cold water and set aside.
4. Grind the saffron strands with the of sugar in a pestle and mortar and then adding 2 tablespoons of just boiled water. Leave to steep for 5 minutes.
5. Melt half the butter with the vegetable oil in your saucepan over a medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of saffron liquid, season with some salt and when the oil is hot, add a layer of rice to the pan and push it down with a wooden spoon so it covers the base of the pot.
6. Gently add the remaining rice, one spoonful at a time as you want to keep some air between the grains so they can stay separate whilst cooking.
7. Using the end of a wooden spoon, make 4 holes in the rice and dot the remaining butter in there.
8. Place a damp piece of baking parchment on top of the rice and place the lid on it tightly. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium heat and 15 minutes over a very low heat. Then take off the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Do not sneak a peak as it will spoil the cooking process.
9. Fill the sink with a few centimetres of cold water and then place the pot in it with the lid still tightly on – the cold water will produce a rush of steam inside the pot which will release the base. Then take the lid of the pot and place a large plate over it. Quickly turn it over and you should have a beautiful Persian rice cake.
10. Scatter over finely chopped fresh herbs and rose petals if desired.
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Yield: Serves 4
Georgina Ingham | Culinary Travels Photograph - Palomar Chicken with Olives & Saffron Tales Persian Chelow
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