Chicken with rose water is the pair for TGRWT 16 being hosted by Markus from Supernova Condensate. TGRWT is a recipe blogging event created by Martin from Khymos where ingredients that are not typically seen together must be paired in a recipe.

My idea was to to adapt the Moroccan Djaj bel Loz, a chicken with almonds and honey. Almonds, honey, and rose water are typically combined in Persian cooking, so I thought the whole thing should work together. No suspense here, a few simple experiments will confirm how well the flavors match, but I managed to mess up centuries of cooking experience. In my first attempt the lemon was overpowering and the sauce was not strained, giving it a funny look. The Wife intervened and helped create this better version.


Djaj deconstructed

Djaj, the Arabic for chicken, is a popular ingredient of Moroccan cuisine. A whole chicken, quartered, is typically prepared with onions, lemons, olives, and nuts and cooked for about an hour as a stew. In this dish I try to keep the original flavors but they are made milder and the cooking time reduced to maintain more of the texture of the chicken breast.

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 350g)
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 12 cup of raisins (80g)
  • 2 tablespoons of almond butter (35g or about 30 almonds made into paste)
  • 1 tablespoon of rose water
  • 1 oz of rum (30 ml)
  • honey
  • flour to dust the chicken breasts
  • almonds for decoration

The almond butter is just almonds made into a paste. The local supermarket has a machine that grinds the almonds while you wait. You may substitute blanched almonds crushed into small pieces. The rose water was bought at the local ethnic grocer.

  1. Pre heat the oven to its lowest setting. Place a sauté pan to warm on the stove top on a medium setting.

  2. Sauté the chicken breasts. To sauté the chicken breasts dry them with a paper towel, place some flour in a plate, and roll each breast in the flour. Lift and then shake the breast to remove as much flour as possible. Place a tablespoon of oil in the pan and once warm, the breast, smooth part down. After two to three minutes, flip. Finish cooking. Each breast should take about four to five minutes. Sauté all breasts. Place in an oven proof dish and keep warm in the oven.

  3. Fry the chopped onions. Chop the onions into small pieces. Add the other tablespoon of oil to the pan and sauté until golden brown. After you have coated the onions in oil, pour in the rum and scrape the brown bits left from sautéing the chicken. The order may seem wrong, but the rum helps capture some of the flavors of the onions.

  4. Add the other ingredients to the pan. Add the ginger, the cinnamon, the almond paste, the raisins, and 12 cup of water to the pan. Stir and let boil for about ten minutes.

  5. Purée the sauce. Transfer the contents to a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Be very careful with the steam released when puréeing a hot mixture. Blender cover’s can pop and leaking steam will scald. Once smooth, strain through a sieve. You may need to strain it twice.

  6. Return strained sauce to pan and simmer until thick. Add the rose water.

  7. Bring the breasts out of the oven and rub them with a thin layer of honey and add some salt. Plate with sauce and almond pieces.


Did it work?

I managed to mess up this recipe the first time, but this second attempt brought it to the serve-to-others level. The credit goes to traditional Moroccan cuisine. One will only notice the rose water if one knows it is there, otherwise it just add brightness to the dish.