Tray roasted ginger and cinnamon chicken, butternut squash and chick peas

If there is a recipe book in more regular use across the country at the moment than Jerusalem, then I would be very surprised.

It is that rare thing: a cookery book that actually contains more recipes home cooks really will try, than it does food porn and page fillers. Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s food sits squarely in the category of interesting but achievable dishes that are as likely to be used for delicious and comforting evening meals, as they are to feed friends. Well done them.

Thing is, I am not very good at using cook books. I get impatient. I don’t follow instructions and ingredient lists very closely. I use them more for information and inspiration than I do for strict methodology.

I am OK when it comes to breads, pastry and desserts (do try the clementine & almond syrup cake on page 294 – make it a day in advance, add 150% of the syrup suggested, and definitely cover with the ‘optional’ chocolate icing).

But anything roasted in a tray or left to cook in a casserole dish, well, that usually gets just a cursory glance, followed by a trip to the store cupboard to see what ingredients I actually have that I can make dinner with. As far as things like Jerusalem’s roasted chicken with clementines and arak, or chicken with Jerusalem artichoke and lemon go: followed to the letter, never; but great inspiration, always.

And so it was a week ago. A slow, well intentioned cruise through the book quickly became an impatient flick, pausing just briefly to note those two chicken recipes mentioned above, and also to reflect on the butternut squash and tahini spread on page 69, which is an awesome recipe that’s been floating around the internet for 18 months or so, and one that I always follow to the t.

Then I stomped off to the fridge to see what might loosely fit the bill.

Those chicken recipes inspired a one pot poultry love in, which would include a citrus element. Page 69 reminded me how awesome the combination of squash/pumpkin and cinnamon is. Star anise, chorizo, spinach, pine nuts and plenty of yoghurt kind of just followed, but no doubt were probably logged as an idea after seeing them in other recipes throughout the Ottolenghi books.

It worked a treat. Sweet and savoury, more-ish, filling and kind of healthy(?). A cracking feed, strongly influenced by many hours flicking through Ottolenghi, Plenty and Jerusalem. I can only imagine how good the food would be if I actually followed a recipe.

Tray roasted ginger and cinnamon chicken, butternut squash and chick peas

Serves 3

  • 500g chicken thighs (bone in)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 1 small-medium butternut squash
  • 8 cm length of chorizo sausage, cut into 1cm dice
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 large red onion
  • 230g cooked chickpeas (drained weight – so roughly a tin)
  • 180g baby spinach leaves
  • 3 tbsp of pine nuts
  • A handful of fresh coriander
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Milk

Preheat your oven to 200C

First, cut out the bone from each of the chicken thighs, then cut each piece of chicken in two. Put in a bowl or on a plate, then drizzle with rapeseed oil, half a t-spoon of cinnamon, all the ground ginger and oregano and a good grinding of pepper. Leave this to marinate whilst you prepare the squash and other bits and pieces.

I use rapeseed oil in this recipe because I felt its nutty taste would go well with all the other flavours.

Peel the squash. Slice in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 3-4cm chunks. Peel the onion and garlic. Bash the garlic with the back of a heavy knife and cut the onion into six segments (cut in half lengthways, then into three). Place the onion, garlic and squash in a roasting tray and a good glug of rapeseed oil. Cut the stalks off your coriander and quickly run a knife through those stalks. Put them in the tray but reserve the leaves for later. Turn everything so that it’s all coated with the oil.

Fry the diced chorizo quickly, to just colour the edges and release some of the oils. Chuck all of this, including the oil, amongst the squash and sprinkle the remainder of the cinnamon over the tray from a height. Add a good grinding of pepper and a fair pinch of sea salt and toss the ingredients again so as to ensure they’re covered with oil and all the seasonings.

Season the meat with salt now and then arrange on top of the squash, skin side up. Cut the lemon into six segments (as per the onion). Remove any pips you see, gently squeeze a little juice from each lemon segment over the chicken pieces, then fit the segments into any gaps between the squash, onion and chicken. Chuck the tray in the oven and leave it to cook for twenty five minutes before looking at it.

In the meantime, toast the pine nuts in a heavy bottomed pan, just so the oils are released and they lightly brown. Wash the spinach, drain the chickpeas, roughly chop the coriander leaves and thin your yoghurt with just a dash of milk.

Check the roasting tray, The squash is probably just softening and the chicken skin starting to colour. Give the tray a light shake or turn the squash with a spoon, just to ensure it’s not sticking and is cooking evenly. Put it back in the oven, close the door and pour a glass of wine.

After ten to fifteen minutes more, when the squash is soft to the touch and the chicken a lovely golden colour, throw in the drained chickpeas, and stir these amongst the other ingredients. Cook for ten more minutes. Drink the wine, pour another, then take the roasting tray out the oven, add the spinach and let it warm but barely wilt amongst the hot ingredients for 3-4 minutes as you sort your plates and cutlery out and finish that second glass of wine.

Serve up, garnishing either the roasting tray or each helping with a good few dollops of yoghurt, a handful of pine nuts and some of that chopped coriander. Get someone to pour you a third glass and (assuming you’re not solo-boozing) open a second bottle.