Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ottolenghi's Chargrilled Chicken with Mograbiah

Here's something: Mograbiah is also known as pearl couscous, Israeli couscous, berkukis (in North Africa) and fregola (in Sardinia). It is made from durum wheat and is more like a pasta. Talk about versatile.

This is another dish of amazing freshness and complementary flavours from Ottolenghi The Cookbook.  The trivia about mograbiah is from the book, too.  Talk about versatile (and useful)!
The Ottolenghi recipe of this dish uses quail instead of chicken, but the book handily warns about the 'fiddly and unrewarding' nature of deboning spatchcock, and suggests that chicken thigh or leg meat can be substituted - I told you it was useful.
Here is my take on the recipe.

Spiced Chargrilled Chicken with Mograbiah
serves 2

4 chicken thigh fillets

1/2 tblsp ground cinnamon
1 tblsp ground cumin
6 whole cardamom pods
1/2 tblsp paprika
pinch of salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
15g fresh ginger, crushed
1 tblsp honey
90ml olive oil

1/2 cup mograbiah
5g unsalted butter
1/2 tblsp olive oil
1/2 mild red chilli
1 spring onion
2 tblsp lemon juice
1 tblsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tblsp mint, chopped
salt and pepper

1.  For the marinade: put all the spices and a pinch of salt in a small food processor bowl (or mortar and pestle) and blend until a fine powder.  Add the garlic and ginger and work into a paste.  Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and whisk in the honey and oil until it becomes light and uniform in texture.  Add the chicken and massage well with the marinade.  Cover and chill for at least 4  hours, preferably overnight.
2.  The next day, prepare the mograbiah: bring a cup of water to the boil with a pinch of salt.  Add the mograbiah and simmer for 10-15 minutes until tender (or 'al dente').  Add the butter and oil, stire well and season with plenty of salt and pepper.  Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, remove the seeds from the chilli and chop it finely.  Finely slice the spring onion and add with the chilli and lemon juice to the cooling mograbiah.
3.  To cook the chicken: place a chargrill pan over medium heat and leave until hot.  Lay the chicken in the pan, spaced well apart, and grill for 10-15 minutes, turning once or twice. Make sure the heat is not too high, or the chicken will darken before they cook.
4.  When the chicken is almost ready, stir the herbs into the mograbiah.  Add more salt, pepper or olive oil to taste.
5.  Pile the salad onto a serving dish, top with the chicken and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook

The marinade ingredients. Next time, I would use ground cardamom, as processing the pods does not ground them finely enough

The marinade turns into a paste that is then massaged into the chicken. This is where a pair of disposable kitchen gloves comes in handy!

Preparing the mograbiah (aka pearl couscous). the herbs, chilli and lemon juice add a wonderful freshness to the dish.

Serve the chicken with the mograbiah

Still can't get enough of Ottolenghi's simple genius


  1. Oh Bel, this is like my dream lunch! All I need is a vinegary North African style salad to go with the chicken & mograbiah. Ooh, I like that word-mograbiah! I'm going to be saying it under my breath all day now (smile)...

  2. It's spices like this that make chicken worth eating, I'm convinced. This is so gorgeously colorful!

  3. I've never used mograbiah and I've loving the sound of the marinade ingredients. I can taste it already!

  4. I love the chewy pop of mograbiah! This would make the perfect spring time lunch.

  5. What a fantastic blend of flavours! I think I'm going to have to invest in this cook book!

  6. I just received a Ottolenghi cookbook - I can't wait to get into it... He is amazing, isn't he?!

  7. Do you know I finally bought the cookbook because of you - but really I must say, you make the pictures look nicer than the cookbook itself.

  8. I can see this cookbook is getting a thorough workout in your household! Makes me want to buy it... =p

  9. I have some of these couscous at home. A different texture but soaks up flavours very well.

  10. I finally ordered the cookbook and I can't wait to try the recipes in it! I haven't used pearl couscous before but I'm really eager to give it ago. This dish looks so vibrant and delicious!

  11. Lovely dish...mmmm I love all the spices used. I can imagine the beautiful flavour of the chicken which goes very well with the couscous. Thanks very much for sharing.

  12. I love pearl couscous but am yet to cook with it. Sounds like such a flavoursome dish... mmm drooling now!

  13. This absolutely a perfect meal for me. Thanks so much!

  14. Moghrabiyah is one of my favourite things. My mother makes a dish with this. I am actually about to post one soon which i did followoing her recipe from Egypt. This look slovely and fresh. Always nice for summer.... Gorgeous!

  15. Another great reicpe from ottolenghis cookbook!! I like!

  16. I've fallen in love with pearl couscous. This recip looks extremely tasty and really healthy. Great job!

  17. This looks like a great wholesome lunch!

  18. I like the sound of a cookbook that gives you all the interesting history, but then tells you how to make things easy and convenient. Lovely mix of herbs and spices too!

  19. i bought some mograbiah ages ago and still haven't used it. i love the idea of using it with chicken - definitely do-able especially as the weather gets warmer.

  20. I think it's largely best to leave the fiddly and unrewarding tasks, while you enjoy the non-fiddly and decidedly rewarding task of drinking wine while you wait for your meal to arrive.

    I love the little charred bits on your chicken, looks super tasty!