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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?