OK, we all know the deal. Several celebrations have come and gone and in only a few days’ time we will be in January — the detox month. It doesn’t really matter who you are or what community you come from, the entire nation will be united in the new year in panicking and joining a gym.
There will follow around about six or seven weeks of feverish pumping of iron and cardiovascular activity, while we all watch the new series of The Biggest Loser. Then eventually mid-February arrives and the lure of the sofa and all those lovely cream cakes becomes all too much and we slump gratefully back into our old ways.
However, you might as well take advantage of the next few weeks while your resolve is still strong, to get into shape, so here is a recipe to help you on your way — chicken and rice with zhug sauce. It is low in fat, comforting, soothing with a zingy sauce to waken up taste buds jaded by too many cocktails. It is also the perfect marriage of Ashkenazi and Sephardi cooking.
To serve four take 1.5kg of chicken thighs on the bone, place them in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, remove any scum that collects on the surface and then add a carrot, a peeled onion, a celery stick, a teaspoon of turmeric and a chicken stock cube. Season to taste.
Turn the heat right down and simmer very gently for an hour while you collect your empty wine bottles and throw them in the recycling bin. When cooked, remove the chicken but don’t throw away the stock. Take a mugful of basmati rice and place in a pan with two mugfuls of the stock. Bring to the boil and then place a lid on and turn the heat down to a minimum and steam for 15 minutes until the rice is cooked and has absorbed all the liquid.
While this is happening make your zhug. Take two blanched garlic cloves, a teaspoon each of cardamom seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, half a teaspoon of caraway seeds, a large handful of fresh coriander, another of flat-leaf parsley and 1 to 2 chillis (depending on how spicy you like it). Add the juice of a lemon and a tablespoon of olive oil and blitz in the food processor.
All that remains is to skin and bone the chicken and place the fillets over a large mound of rice and finish with a god dollop of zhug. You are allowed a good-sized portion because there will be no dessert for over a month.