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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Imad Alarnab

Imad Alarnab’s grilled marinated chicken with a tomato, roast fennel and dukkah salad – recipes

Imad Alarnab's fennel, tomato and dukkah salad.
Imad Alarnab's fennel, tomato and dukkah salad. Photograph: Matthew Hague/The Guardian. Food styling: Oliver Rowe. Prop styling: Anna Wilkins. Food styling assistant: Lucy Cottle.

In Syria, we say that the eye eats before the mouth, so even if it’s a casual, midweek meal, it needs to be colourful and well presented. There’s always hummus and fresh bread, maybe a heavier meat dish or two, some vegetables or salads, pickles … There’s also always far more than we can all eat in one sitting, so there are always leftovers. Those leftovers then go into the fridge and become tomorrow’s meals, along with some freshly made extras: maybe a new salad or a rice dish, something hot or a crunchy side. That’s how we eat.

Heritage tomato, roast fennel and dukkah salad (pictured top)

Make this in summer when tomatoes are at their best. The better the tomato, the better this will taste, so splash out and buy good ones.

Prep 15 min
Cook 45 min
Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

For the dukkah (makes 115g)
50g cumin seeds

25g coriander seeds
10g pink peppercorns
urfa chilli flakes
aleppo chilli flakes
Nuts and seeds of your choice – I like cashews and white sesame seeds – toasted until golden

For the salad
1 fennel bulb
tbsp olive oil
tsp za’atar
300g assorted heritage tomatoes,
cut into chunks
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsp dukkah (see above)
150g soft goat’s cheese
A small handful of fresh tarragon leaves

First, make the dukkah. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan over a high heat, stirring them around, until a little bit of smoke comes off and they start to smell very fragrant. Take off the heat, add the pink peppercorns and toast them in the residual heat for 30 seconds. While everything is still hot, grind the seeds and peppercorns in a mortar, then tip into a small bowl. Stir in the urfa and aleppo chilli flakes and, when cool, transfer to a jar, seal and store for up to a month. When you want to use the dukkah, toast any nuts and seeds you have to hand, until golden, then crush in a mortar and add to the spice mix.

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Cut the fennel into six to eight wedges, depending on how large the bulb is. Toss these in the olive oil, za’atar and salt to taste, put on an oven tray and roast for 25–30 minutes, until soft, slightly crisp and golden. Leave to cool slightly.

Toss the tomatoes in a little salt and the extra-virgin olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and dukkah. Roughly crumble the cheese and arrange on a platter, followed by the roast fennel and tomatoes. Finish with the tarragon leaves.

Jaj bailfurn (grilled chicken thighs)

Imad Alarnab’s jaj Bailfurn (grilled chicken thighs).
Imad Alarnab’s jaj bailfurn, or grilled chicken thighs. Photograph: Matthew Hague/The Guardian. Food styling: Oliver Rowe. Prop styling: Anna Wilkins. Food styling assistant: Lucy Cottle.

This is a staple, midweek, one-tray meal. You can use any vegetables you have in the fridge, too, so it’s a great way to use stuff up. You can buy shish taouk ready-made, but I recommend making your own.

Prep 10 min
Marinade 2 hr+
Cook 50 min
Serves 4-6

8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
2 carrots, chopped into 5cm chunks
2 large floury potatoes, chopped into 5cm chunks
1 onion, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
150g baby chestnut mushrooms
Rice or tabbouleh, to serve

For the shish taouk (optional)
1 tbsp ground allspice
tbsp ground cinnamon
tsp garlic powder
tsp ground nutmeg

For the marinade
1 tsp tomato puree
tbsp shish taouk (see above or use shop-bought)
1 tsp mild Madras curry powder
5 garlic cloves,
peeled and crushed
1 tbsp ground black pepper
tbsp Greek-style yoghurt
A good pinch of salt
tbsp white-wine vinegar
100ml olive oil

If you’re making the shish taouk, mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients, adding the oil last, then set aside two tablespoons of the marinade mix for later.

Add the chicken to the marinade bowl and toss so the pieces are evenly coated. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least two hours, and ideally overnight.

When you’re ready to cook, heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 and take the chicken bowl out of the fridge.

Put all the vegetables in a large, high-sided oven tray, and put the chicken thighs skin side up on top. Tightly wrap the tray in foil, then bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil, brush the chicken with the reserved marinade, then return it to the oven for a further 20 minutes, until the skin is crisp – you may need to turn up the heat briefly to help it along.

Serve with rice or tabbouleh.

  • This is an edited extract from Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, by Imad Alarnab, published by HarperCollins at £26. To order a copy for £22.88, go to

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