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.

Spring Salad

There are people that love winter, but I’m not one of them. I tend to be a bit grumpier during the winter and I hate how it gets cold and dark really early. I leave the house to go to work and it’s still dark. When I come back from work to pick up the kids from day care it usually is dark again. The only things I like about winter is Christmas with my family, building a snowman with my children, having a snowball fight or just enjoying the winter scenery. In the Netherlands it can be really cold in winter, but we don’t often have enough and good quality snow to enjoy these kind of things. It’s more like a slushy kind of snow which causes traffic jams and accidents and ruins your new shoes when you get out of the car. So that leaves Christmas as the only perk in winter. If we would move Christmas to Spring we can cancel Winter alltogether, what do you think? Are you with me on that?

Ok, ok, ok…………..hold your horses. I know that’s not a good idea. I know we need winter, nature needs winter, some people need winter to shake off the heat of Summer. We need Winter as much as we need Summer and Fall and Spring. So every year I patiently sit and wait for the cold to disappear so Spring can start, because Spring is my favourite season…………….my solace. I love it when the grass in the garden gets a bright green and all leaves start growing on the plants and trees. The fruit trees start to blossom and the flowers pop up from the ground and last but not least the weather finally turns warmer. It’s so nice to feel the sun on your skin while sitting outside, but it’s not too hot yet, like in summer. Spring just makes everything prettier, happier and more alive. Every year I get so excited I nearly wet my plants…….……..but the garden is my husband’s territory. He does the watering of the plants, weeding, mowing the grass and pruning the trees and he does a great job doing it (see below).

0ur garden

Another great thing about Spring is the amazing vegetables and fruit that grow in this season. Of course you can get things like artichokes, peas or fennel all year round nowadays, but nothing beats the taste of so many spring produce when you actually buy it in springtime. I like to eat a lot of fresh salads in Spring; from fresh asparagus to radishes to green beans and all kinds of fruit. A lot of people find it difficult to incorporate salads into their meals. These are the same people who think salads are boring, because they think salads are just some green leaves, cucumber and tomato’s. Well, think again……….……..try to use other ingredients. You will be amazed by how many ingredients you can toss into a salad. By including a variety of ingredients, salads can often turn into a nutritional power bomb chucked full of vital vitamins and minerals.

That’s why I just love a big bowl of this Spring Salad recipe. This salad puts green veggies like spinach, asparagus, haricot vert beans and broad beans together. Then you add a dressing of shallots, lemon juice, olive oil, sesame oil and chili. You make it nice and pretty with some nigella seeds and white and black sesame seeds. It made a fabulous side dish to the chicken curry we had tonight. The kids had a version without the asparagus, chili and shallots.

I like to leave the podding of the broad beans to my ‘sous chef’, because it’s a tedious job and he still thinks of it as a challenge. I tell him that I need small hands for the job and that his hands are perfect for it. He likes the fact that he can do something I can’t (hihihihihi). My other sous chef used to do it for me, but she is no longer fooled by my words 🙂 . She still helps a lot in the kitchen, just not with the beans anymore. There will be a time that I have to do the podding myself again, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.

As much as I love this season, there is one thing I don’t like about Spring; I’m not really into Spring cleaning. But come to think of it, I’m not into Summer, Fall or Winter cleaning either. If you are one of those people who can’t wait to start your Spring cleaning, going through the whole house all excited while listening to music, I have one solid advise: whatever you do, your toilet brush is never the microphone!!!

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!


Spring Salad
Source: ‘Plenty’ – Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Servings: 4 people
  • 300 g asparagus
  • 200 g French beans (haricot verts)
  • 200 g broad beans after podding (fresh or frozen)
  • 50 g baby spinach leaves
  • 1 shallot, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely diced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp white and black sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • Salt
  1. Trim the asparagus and slice them in an angle into 3-4 pieces. Fill a large pot of water with water and bring that to a boil. Blanch the asparagus for two to four minutes, depending on thickness. You don't want them cooked too soft. I added the tips of the asparagus only in the last minute so they don’t turn into mush. With a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice-cold water. Then you add the French beans to the boiling water, blanch for five minutes and transfer to the asparagus bowl. Drain both well, then dry on a clean kitchen towel.

  2. Take the pan of the heat and add the broad beans in the same water. Leave them in there for 2 minutes and then drain them. Transfer to a bowl of water and remove the outer tough skin by making a incision with the nail of your thumb on the top and then pressing them between finger and thumb so the beans come out gently. Don’t press to hard or they will turn into a mush.

  3. Mix the sliced shallots, the red chili, the sesame oil, the olive oil, the lemon juice and half a teaspoon of salt in a jar and shake thoroughly. Put all the greens in a large bowl and add the dressing, stir gently, taste, add more salt if you like. Put everything on a serving dish and sprinkle the salad with the black and white sesame seeds, the nigella seeds and serve at once.

  4. If you want to keep some of the ingredients separately like I did with my children, then you mix half of the remaining ingredients in a jar and leave out the ingredients you don’t want to add. You use this dressing on the kids version and you make a separate dressing for the adults.


Soba noodles with aubergine and mango

I love to cook and eat and what better person to share this passion with then the love of my life. Not that he’s much into cooking new recipes, but he definitely loves to eat. The best part is that he shares my enthusiasm for exciting food, textures and flavours. It’s such a joy to cook for someone who loves to eat as much as I do. He is always willing to try new things and is not fussy about certain ingredients. I don’t know if I would love cooking as much as I do if I had to adjust all recipes to fit his preferences.

I’m also lucky that my kids eat a lot of the dishes I cook, but kids will be kids and of course my kids are fussy sometimes. I do teach them that they are not allowed to say that they don’t like something when they have never tasted it before. That means they always have to taste everything I make. I have surprised them on a few occasions where they did not expect to like what I had put in front of them, and then they ended up having seconds. The first time that happened was when I made the green couscous from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. Of course, what kid likes green fuzzy stuff on first sight, right? It’s now their favorite couscous recipe. I will share that recipe on another occasion.

There is one exception to the ‘tasting’ rule. If I use chilies in a dish then they don’t have to taste it if they don’t want to. They are not accustomed to spicy food (yet). So, the first time I made the soba noodles with aubergine and mango I also made a separate dish for them because the recipe called for red chili in the dressing. However……..when the kids heard our mumbles of joy at the dinner table they both asked for a bite despite the chilies. Which was ok because the vinegar in the dressing had made the chilies less spicy. After one bite of our salad they shoved their plate of pasta away and asked for a bowl of this salad. Go figure……….. They said the salad tastes like sushi 😆 and they love sushi.

This salad is very simple and nutritious; it has the perfect balance of flavours and a great mix of textures. It’s a salad that keeps you going back for more and more and more………………

After I made it the first time it quickly turned into one of my favourite summer salads which you can also easily take to potlucks or BBQ parties. If you want to keep it all to yourself (which totally makes sense to me) just store it in the fridge for a perfect easy lunch during the week. It’s so refreshing, especially when the temperatures are warm and the sky is sunny. The mango might seem weird in this recipe, but it’s an absolute must. Just make sure your mangoes are of the juicy and delicious variety.

The original recipe has you frying the aubergine in 220ml sunflower oil, but besides the fact that all that oil is not that healthy I don’t like it when the aubergine soak up a lot of oil. I only use just enough oil to ‘bake’ the aubergine in a skillet on the stove. I think I don’t use more than 2 tbs per batch (2 batches).


I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me if you liked 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!

Ottolenghi’s soba noodles with aubergine and mango

Ottolenghi’s soba noodles with aubergine and mango

5 from 2 votes
Soba Noodles with Aubergine and Mango

Source: “Plenty” – Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Servings: 4 people
  • 120 ml rice vinegar
  • 40 g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 4 tbs sunflower oil
  • 2 aubergines, cut into 2cm dice
  • 250 g soba noodles
  • 1 large ripe mango, cut into 1cm dice
  • 40 g basil leaves, chopped
  • 40 g coriander leaves, chopped
  • ½ red onion, very thinly sliced
  1. First make the dressing. In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chilli and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice. 

  2. Heat up 2 tbs of sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry/bake the aubergine in 2 batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain. Repeat with the remaining aubergine. I have to say that when I do this it never releases any fluids so I don’t do this anymore. Maybe because I don’t use a lot of oil.

  3. Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 4–5 minutes to become tender but still retaining a bite (check your package for instructions). Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a tea towel.

  4. In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, aubergine, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1–2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.