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Za’atar Chicken with Apricot Spiced Couscous and Minty Pomegranate Yogurt

Last year I made a trip to Dubai, and after sampling almost every type of Arabian cuisine I could get my hands on – one of the things I fell in love with was their Za’atar Bread. Za’atar has this unique herby, earthy, slightly lemony flavour – unlike anything I’ve had before.

Za’atar is a Middle-Eastern spice mixture, comprising Sumac, Thyme, Roasted Sesame Seeds, Marjoram, Oregano and Salt. It’s kind of like an Arabic ‘All Spice’ or ‘Chaat Masala’, if you will. Za’atar is so versatile, it can be used on breads, meats, vegetables, rice – and it’s SO good, it’s almost addictive!

The Za’atar used in this recipe is actually that of a local brand in Dubai (sorry, I chucked the packet and I can’t remember the name) and though it is available in select stores here in Pune (Foodhall, Dorabjees) if you would prefer to make your own (I’m going to, as soon as my stash runs out) then follow this recipe here.

In keeping with the awful heat we’re experiencing (40 degrees and rising!) I decided to make some lighter accompaniments for the Chicken – a mildly Spiced Couscous with Candied Apricots and a refreshing Minty Yogurt with fresh Pomegranate! Light, healthy, fresh and oh-so-perfect for Summer! Here we go:

For the Chicken


2 large Chicken breasts, sliced through the middle to yield 4 fillets

5-6 Garlic cloves, peeled & minced (use more or less, according to size & preference)

2 ½ to 3 tbsp Za’atar Spice (dry)

3-4 tbsp Olive Oil

1 Lime (juice only)

Salt (to taste)

Marination time : minimum 30 minutes


Use a wide-bottomed shallow bowl, if possible. Add the dry Za’atar and slowly mix in the Olive Oil to emulsify, until a liquid paste-like consistency is achieved. Add the minced Garlic, the Lime juice (you may add this slowly, to taste) and the Salt (also, to taste). Layer the Chicken fillets in the dish, rubbing in the marinade with the back of a spoon. Leave aside at room temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes. If you wish to marinate them for longer, keep it refrigerated and remove it about an hour before intended to cook. Also, if you wish, press one whole garlic clove gently into each Chicken fillet, just to add that extra kick.

*To cook the Chicken, use a non-stick saucepan (they work best), heat it up on the stove until you can feel the heat just by hovering your hand over the surface (a good 5-10 minutes usually works. I find it more effective to add the Chicken to a hot pan because it cooks faster and more evenly). There is no need to add any extra Oil or Butter to the pan, as there is enough Olive Oil in the marinade.

*I usually prepare the Chicken marinade first, then finish off the Couscous and re-use the pan for cooking the Chicken. It saves on washing and is most convenient!

For the Couscous

Couscous, for those of you who don’t know, originates from North Africa, where it is a staple ingredient in cooking. A derivative of durum wheat, it has become a popular, healthier alternative to Rice and Pasta. I love Couscous for it’s light, fluffy texture and it’s ability to absorb flavours. Also, it barely takes 10 minutes to prepare and also goes great in Salads (if you’re into that kind of weird Vegetarian food…just kidding!)


1 cup Couscous

¾ – 1 cup Chicken Stock (I used the readymade cubes)

4-5 Cloves

2 pods Cardamom, bruised

1 Lime (juice only)

Salt (to taste)

1 tbsp Parsley, chopped (fresh or dried)

2 tbsp Butter

5-6 dried Apricots, chopped


First of all, make sure your Chicken Stock is flavourful, because the Couscous will absorb this instantly. Add the Cloves, Cardamom and Salt (to taste) to the boiling hot broth (yes, it must be boiling hot, so if you’re using the Stock cubes like I did, pre-boil the water in a kettle or something before adding the flavours) and make sure to taste! Add in the Couscous and stir gently with a fork (so it won’t clump) until all the liquid disappears and the Couscous is beautifully puffed up.

Next, to a warm pan on a low flame, add one tbsp Butter and toss in the chopped Apricots – stir them around for a bit until they are glowing like little jewels (yes, really), then add the second tbsp of Butter and the Couscous. Once the Couscous is well-coated and gleaming, remove the whole spices, sprinkle in the Parsley and once again, run a fork through it to make sure it remains aerated and not lumpy.

For the Yogurt


½ cup Yogurt

⅓ cup Cucumber, grated (fresh)

⅓ cup Mint leaves, chopped (fresh)

¼ cup Pomegranate (fresh)

Salt (to taste)


Combine the Yogurt, Cucumber and Mint leaves. Mix vigorously with a fork until it appears velvety-smooth. Season with Salt and scatter in the gorgeous Pomegranate beads. Serve along with the Chicken and Couscous.

Yay! You have just cooked a delicious, healthy and light meal for two. Give yourself a pat on the back, you deserve it.

Happy Eating!


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