Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad

Have you ever seen the movie ‘The Pineapple Express’ where Seth Rogen is driving in his car and says: ‘Couscous: the food so nice they named it twice’. Being a Berber Moroccan myself who is brought up eating couscous like the Italians eat pasta I can only agree with Seth on this. Couscous is delicious, convenient and very versatile and I make sure I always have it in my pantry, ready to be turned into a salad or served with a fragrant brothy stew. It’s a great vehicle for all sorts of flavour combinations.

Couscous is a traditional dish of the Berbers who actually call it ‘Seksu’ which means ‘well rolled’ or ‘rounded’ in Berber. The more common name ‘couscous’ comes from the Arabic language. For years, couscous-preparing knowledge was passed on from mother to daughter in the Berber society. Knowing how to prepare couscous was an important element of a young woman’s dowry. So my mum did her duty and taught me how to prepare couscous the proper way 🙂 . Little did she know that her daughter would have such a busy job, that she rarely would have the time to cook the couscous the proper way. Instant couscous is just too convenient, especially when you come home and dinner needs to be on the table in an hour, max.

Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad

Couscous is no longer an important meal just for Moroccans, Algerians, and Tunisians. Nowadays it’s enjoyed all over the world. When I say couscous, I mean the traditional small granules that look like grains, but are actually tiny ground pasta made from semolina (a type of wheat). Couscous is made by rubbing semolina between wet hands until minuscule little balls are formed. The couscous is then dried and later steamed in a couscoussier (unless of course  you use the instant version). A couscoussier is a traditional double-chambered food steamer. It is typically made of two interlocking pots made of metal. The bottom part, which is the larger one, holds water or broth used to produce steam. The smaller pot, which is designed to be placed on top of the first, has a lid, and a perforated bottom. It holds the couscous in place while allowing the steam to enter and reach the couscous.

couscoussier steaming couscous

So, when I say couscous I don’t mean giant couscous. Who ever thought of that name? There’s no such thing as giant couscous. Don’t get me wrong, there is something which kind of looks like couscous, but is much bigger than the normal couscous, but I would never call it giant couscous or pearl couscous or Israeli couscous, simply because it’s not couscous. These products are not as similar as their names lead you to believe. Let me give you some of the differences: whereas couscous is traditionally dried before it’s cooked, the big ‘couscous’ (which is actually called p’titim) is toasted in the oven, giving it a slight toasty flavour. Where the real couscous is prepared by steaming, p’titim is boiled, like pasta or prepared in a way risotto is also prepared.

Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad

Having said that……………….I love p’titim, we just need to stop calling it couscous. I read an article saying that experts in Algeria are working on a project to include North African couscous on UNESCO’s world heritage list. That’s the other extreme in my opinion, but I understand why they would want to do that.

Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

5 from 1 vote
Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad
Servings: 4 people
For the chicken
  • 120 ml honey
  • 2 tbs rose harissa
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 8-10 (1.2kg) free-range chicken drumsticks
For the salad
  • 4 tbsp olive oil (2 for frying and 2 for the 'dressing')
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 spring onions
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 300 g P’titim (or pearl couscous for the ignorant 😉 , read my blogpost)
  • 400 g chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 15 g parsley, chopped
  • 15 g mint, chopped
  • 120 g pomegranate seeds
  • 100 g almonds, toasted and chopped
  1. Add the honey, rose harissa, crushed garlic, lemon zest and half the lemon juice into a large bowl. Season with a 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper and stir to combine. Add the chicken and turn to coat and let it marinate for at least 2 hours.

  2. Preheat oven to 220°C when ready to cook. Line a baking tray with baking paper and transfer the chicken to the baking tray. Roast the chicken for 35-45 minutes or until cooked through and golden, basting every 15 minutes with the mixture from the bowl.

  3. Cook the p’titim according to packet instructions (mine took 10 minutes), then drain in a colander, cool under cold running water and let it drain thoroughly.

  4. Fry the onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and spring onion and fry them for another 3 minutes. Then add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and season well with 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper. Fry for one more minute and then add the chickpeas also for one more minute. Take off the heat and add the other half of the lemon juice and the chopped parsley and mint (save a little bit of the herbs for garnish). Tip everything in a shallow salad bowl that will also fit the cooked p’titim. Add the p’titim to the salad bowl when it’s completely drained. Peel the pomegranate and toast the almonds and add them to the bowl together with 2 tbsp of olive oil and combine until everything is mixed.

  5. Arrange the p’titim salad on a large platter, top with drumsticks and scatter with extra herbs.

Ottolenghi’s Kofta b’siniyah

Ssssssstttttt………..don’t tell anyone, but I’ve had a love affair with Middle Eastern food ever since I took my first bite. Middle Eastern cuisine comes from various countries and cultures ranging from North Africa through Asia. It includes Arab, Iranian/Persian, Israeli, Assyrian, Armenian, Kurdish, Cypriot, Azerbaijani and Turkish cuisines (sorry if I forgot some countries). It’s so broad you will always find something you like in this cuisine. I’m so fond of this type of food that I’m yet to cook something from it I don’t like.

Today I made Ottolenghi’s kofta b’siniyah from his cookbook Jerusalem. Kofta is essentially a meatball often seasoned with onion, herbs, and spices that can trace it’s origin across the Middle East. It comes in many varieties, each with its own unique heritage and specific preparation technique. Depending on the region, kofta can be made with any kind of ground meats. This version of kofta is made with half & half mixture of ground beef and ground lamb and served on a creamy tahini sauce.

Ottolenghi’s Kofta b’siniyah

Some recipes will tell you to use olive oil to cook the meatballs. I would advise against this because all the flavour of olive oil will disappear while cooking at high heat and the kofta is more likely to burn. Vegetable oil (like sunflower oil) has a higher smoking point and is better suited for the job.

Make sure to rest the shaped meatballs in the fridge for about 30 minutes or more before cooking, that helps the meatballs to firm up and the flavours to settle.

Ottolenghi’s Kofta b’siniyah

Before you start rolling the meatballs check the seasoning of your mixture by cooking a piece of it in the pan. Taste it and if it needs more salt or pepper, add some to the rest of the meatball mixture. Good seasoning is very important and is hard to correct once cooked.

Ottolenghi’s Kofta b’siniyah

This recipe uses tahini, but many people don’t like this paste, because they never had good tahini. I don’t buy the Turkish brands, because I find them too bitter and difficult to use (to thick). Buy a good brand tahini and don’t skip on the tahini-lemon sauce. It provides a smooth and creamy contrast to the fragrant meat. A good brand for example is ‘Al Yaman’ which I bought in ‘Tanger’, a Moroccan supermarket in Amsterdam. Two other brands I can recommend are ‘Al Nakhil’ and ‘Al Arz’. Surely you will find one of the three, either in a store or online.

I usually serve this with pita bread and a cucumber and tomato salad. Unfortunately I did not have time to make pita today so I served them with some corn on the cob.

Ottolenghi’s Kofta b’siniyah

So if you have the (meat)balls to try a variation on your standard meatball, it’s time to consider kofta. Trust me it will make you fall in love with middle eastern food in no time.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. Tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

Ottolenghi’s Kofta b’siniyah

Source: “Jerusalem” – Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Servings: 5 people
  • 400 g minced lamb
  • 400 g minced beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 50 g toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped, plus extra whole ones to garnish
  • 30 g finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to garnish
  • 1 large medium-hot red chilli , deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1½   tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1½   tsp ground allspice
  • ¾     tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1½   tsp ground black pepper
  • 1½   tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil for baking the Kofta
Tahini sauce
  • 75 g light tahini paste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • enough water to make the sauce runny
  • 1 medium garlic clove, crushed
  • salt
  • sweet paprika, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.

  2. Put all the kofta ingredients (exept for the sunflower oil) in a bowl and use your hands to mix everything together well. Now shape into long, cigar-shaped cylinders, roughly 7cm long (about 50g each). Press the mix to compress it and ensure the kofta is tight and keeps its shape. Arrange on a plate and chill (at least 30 min) until you are ready to cook them.

  3. In a medium bowl whisk together the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, water and a quarter of a teaspoon of salt. The sauce should be a bit runnier than honey; add more water if needed one tbs at the time.

  4. Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying-pan and sear the kofta over a high heat; do this in batches so they are not cramped together. Sear them on all sides until golden brown, about six minutes for each batch. At this point they should be medium-rare. Lift out of the pan and arrange on an oven tray. Put the tray in the oven for two (medium) to four (well done) minutes.

  5. Spoon the tahini sauce on a serving plate so it covers the base of the tray and place the kofta on the sauce. Scatter with pine nuts and parsley and finally sprinkle some paprika on top. 

  6. Serve at once.


Lamb Meatballs with Feta, Lemon and Mint

Meatballs are little globes of deliciousness that can be used in all sorts of dishes. Whether you like them fried, baked, glazed, or simmered in sauce, they are super versatile and inexpensive. It’s just a matter of taking some ground meat, add some seasoning and herbs, form it into little balls, and cook! This lamb meatball recipe with feta, lemon and mint is fabulous, but you can always substitute the lamb for another kind of meat if you don’t like lamb. If I had to name one recipe that is ideal for slipping into a food coma, it would be this one.

If done right the meatballs are juicy and soft. To achieve this juiciness and softness it’s very important not to overwork the meat mixture, and make sure to simmer them gently. I use the lowest setting on the stove.

First time I saw the intriguing mix of ingredients  in this recipe, I immediately wanted to try it. After tasting it I can now tell you that there’s a mouthful of incredible flavour in every bite you take of this dish! I can honestly say that I have never eaten meatballs in tomato sauce as good as these and I would love to be proven wrong. If you have a better recipe, please let me know…….

The meatballs are quick and easy to make, you just mix all the ingredients together and roll them into golf size balls. I don’t know about you, but I think there is something extremely relaxing about rolling the meat into little balls and browning them into perfection before you drop them into the delicious, rich tomato sauce. I told the kids they could choose what to serve them with and they chose a cucumber and strawberry salad and some crusty bread.


It is worth doubling up the quantities of the tomato sauce if you want to serve them with a pasta like spaghetti. You know what………….…..just thought of this, but you could also use this extra sauce to make a delicious lunch the next day. Simply heat up the sauce and then drop a few eggs in the mixture and poach them to perfection. Add a nice crusty baguette and you’re sorted. I will definitely do that next time I make them.


Once we were having meatballs for diner and my son asks me: mum, how much of this meatball is meat? So I tell him that about 90% of the meatballs is meat. Then he replied: So the other 10% is made of balls? Euhhhhh……..…….never thought of it like that. Luckily it did not change my way of looking at meatballs.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

5 from 1 vote
Lamb Meatballs with Feta, Lemon and Mint

Source: Adapted from ‘Smitten Kitchen’

Servings: 5 people
  • 750 grams ground lamb
  • 1 large egg
  • 60 grams panko breadcrumbs
  • 60 grams crumbled feta cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • a Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 grams chopped parsley
  • 35 grams tomato paste
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (for browning)
Tomato sauce
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic clove, minced
  • 35 grams tomato paste
  • 800 grams (2 cans) of crushed or pureed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinches of red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 75 grams pitted, chopped kalamata olives, plus more for garnish
  • 5 grams thinly sliced mint leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 5 grams chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 30 grams crumbled feta, for garnish
  1. In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients except the oil. I like to do this with a fork. Form the mixture into golf ball sized meatballs. Oil your hands so the meat doesn’t stick to your fingers. Always roll them lightly so they just hold together but they aren’t compressed to much. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to set.
  2. While the meatballs set in the fridge, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and put it on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and let it "brown" in the pan. By doing this and sauteing it with the onions, you can boost the flavour of this dish in a big way. This method caramelizes the natural sugars in the tomato paste, making the sauce sweet and delicious. Then you add a little water to the pan and scrape up any bits stuck to the pan. Add the tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook at the lowest setting for 30 minutes.
  3. While the sauce is cooking you heat a little oil over a medium-high heat in a large frying pan and brown the meatballs. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Leave space so you can gently turn the meatballs around so they brown on all sides. You can fry the meatballs until cooked through but I prefer to finish them in the sauce. Once they are all browned, remove carefully with tongs and set aside on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the meatballs.
  4. Add the oregano, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper flakes, olives, mint and parsley to the tomato sauce. Then add the browned meatballs, cover the pan and cook again at the lowest simmer for another 30 minutes. By then the meatballs should be cooked through.
  5. Before serving you sprinkle the meatballs with feta, parsley, olives and mint and serve immediately. We served this with a cucumber and strawberry salad and some crusty baguette to mop up all the delicious tomato sauce.