Spicy Middle Eastern chicken with chickpeas

Nico Groblers 2013 Eikdendal Chardonnay, which pairs perfectly with this spicy chicken dish.

We’ve eaten out a great deal while visiting with our family in South Weber, Utah, but dear daughter Robyn has also produced some stunning meals.

On Saturday evening we enjoyed this lovely spicy chicken dish, paired with a bottle of Nico Grobler’s 2013 Eikendal Chardonnay, which made the long journey from Somerset West in my luggage.

The key to the pairing is the lemony and earthy nature of the recipe, which matches perfectly with the citrus and mineral notes in the wine.

The dish is seasoned with a spice blend that includes Ras El Hanout, a Moroccan spice mix, and crushed Aleppo pepper, among other ingredients.

Aleppo pepper is grown in – you guessed it – Aleppo in Syria, which means it isn’t actually available in America, so the substitute is a mix of equal parts of cayenne pepper and paprika.

In case you can’t find Ras El Hanout, I’ve included a recipe to make your own.

Ingredients, selection and preparation

500g chicken breast: cut into bite size chunks

2 small pita breads: cut into squares about 1.5cm square

1 1/2 cups (375ml) chickpeas: rinsed and drained

1 zucchini: quartered lengthwise and sliced

2 tbsp tomato paste

4 cloves garlic: crushed

1/4 cup (65ml) sour cream

juice of 1 lemon

1 small bunch coriander: rinsed and finely chopped

olive oil: for frying

salt and pepper: for seasoning

2 12/ cups (675ml) water

(Spice blend)

5 tsp flour

1 tsp Ras El Hanout (see ingredients below)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp Allepo pepper, or 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, plus 1/4 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp crushed dried orange peel

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

(Ras El Hanout)

2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground cardamom

2 tsp ground mace

1 tsp pimento allspice

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp each black, white and cayenne pepper

Method

Make the croutons first. Heat a medium saucepan medium hot and pour in a tbsp of olive oil.

Add the pita cubes and toast, stirring regularly until golden brown and crisp, about five to seven minutes.

Turn out onto a paper towel-lined shallow bowl, and season with salt and pepper.

Wipe out the saucepan.

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the saucepan medium hot, and add 1 tbsp olive oil.

Add the seasoned chicken and fry until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, six to eight minutes.

Add the zucchini and cook until soft, a further three to four minutes.

Add the spice blend, tomato paste and three cloves of crushed garlic. Cook for two to three minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant.

Add the chickpeas and water to the saucepan, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and soft, and the sauce has thickened, about eight to 10 minutes.

While the chicken mixture is simmering, prepare the accompaniments.

Combine and whip the sour cream and juice of half a lemon in a small bowl.

Make the chermoula by combining one clove of crushed garlic, the coriander and juice of half a lemon in a small bowl. Stir in enough olive oil to make a thick paste.

Season both to taste with salt and pepper.

Adjust the seasoning of the chicken sauce with salt and pepper, and serve in bowls, garnished with croutons, chermoula and the seasoned sour cream.

And as I said, the Eikendal Chardonnay is pure delight with this dish.

Lemon gold in colour with a pale green luminescence, it offers citrus and mineral notes on the nose.

The palate is consistent throughout, with the seamlessy integrated 12 months in oak, manifesting as palate weight, backbone, underpinned by bright lemon-lime and pear flavours on vibrant acidity, underpinned by a pleasing mineral note.

The finish is long and elegantly succulent.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

Yield: 4