By Habeeb Salloum

Issue #139 • January/February, 2013

One cannot think of our culinary world without chicken or eggs. Chicken is one of the world’s most consumed meats and eggs are on the tables of the vast majority of the world population. They provide the bulk of protein to people around the globe, especially the underprivileged.

My love affair with the chicken and its egg began early in life when my parents who emigrated from Syria in the early 1920s took a homestead in southern Saskatchewan. No sooner had they ploughed the land than it turned into desert. However, this did not force them to leave the land. In their country of birth, farming had never been a life of luxury and they adapted to the new harsh life.

Chickens and their eggs helped us survive those barren years. Our chickens were not pampered. During the drought of the Depression years when our family did not have the money to buy feed, our chickens survived on the meager food they found while scratching in the barn and the surrounding fields.

Chicken meat is packed with vitamins and nutrients. It is a versatile and excellent source of protein and a healthy alternative to red meat. It has been found that the ancient way of treating a cold with chicken soup is valid even in our modern age.

Eggs are high in vitamins and minerals but low in saturated fat and calories. They are also a rich source of protein. Although eggs contain cholesterol, the nutritional benefits of these chicken offerings outweigh the slight cholesterol concerns of the diner.

These are some of my favorite chicken and egg dishes:

Chicken and almond couscous

Chicken and almond couscous

Serves about 10

This Moroccan-type couscous is one of my favorites. The juices of the chicken, almonds, chickpeas, and raisins blend well to create a succulent dish.

2 cups couscous
2 large onions, sliced
½ cup olive oil
one chicken, about 4 pounds, cut into serving pieces
2 cups cooked chickpeas
½ cup raisins, rinsed
1 cup lightly-toasted blanched almonds
3 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground coriander seeds
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
7 cups water
4 Tbsp. butter
½ tsp. paprika

Soak couscous in warm water for a few seconds, then quickly drain and place in the top part of the couscousiére or double boiler with a perforated top. Thoroughly break up the lumps in the couscous and set aside.

In bottom part of the couscousiére or double boiler, place onion and oil, then cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, except water, butter, and paprika, then stir-fry for about five minutes. Add enough water to generously cover the chicken pieces, then bring to a boil. Fit the top part with couscous to the bottom part with stew. If steam escapes between the two parts, seal the seam with a piece of flour-impregnated cloth. Cook over medium heat for one hour or until chicken is done, stirring couscous often to make sure kernels do not stick together, then stir butter into couscous and remove from heat.

Place couscous on a platter pyramid-style, then make a wide, deep well in the middle. With a slotted spoon, remove chicken pieces, chickpeas, raisins, and almonds and place in well. Sprinkle paprika over couscous then serve. Remaining stew and sauce can be served as a side dish with each person adding extra stew to taste.

Garlic chicken

Serves 6

This is a version of a Spanish recipe inherited from the Moors.

4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 pounds boned chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch-wide strips
1 head garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp. dried tarragon
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup water

Heat oil in a frying pan, then sauté chicken over medium heat for five minutes. Add garlic, then stir-fry for further two minutes. Transfer frying pan contents to a casserole.

Combine remaining ingredients, then stir into the casserole. Cover, then bake in a 350° F preheated oven for 20 minutes. Uncover, then bake for another 30 minutes or until chicken is tender. Serve hot from casserole with mashed potatoes or cooked rice.

Almond, prune, and chicken stew

Serves about 8

This is my own tempting version of a Moroccan tajine dish.

one chicken, about 4 pounds, cut into serving pieces
3 medium onions, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
4 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
pinch of saffron
3 cups water
1 cup prunes, pitted
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ cup blanched almonds

In a saucepan, place chicken, onions, garlic, coriander, butter, salt, pepper, saffron, and water, then bring to boil. Cover, then simmer over low heat for about 1½ hours or until the chicken is well-done, adding more water if necessary. Remove chicken pieces with a slotted spoon and place on platter. Keep warm.

Add prunes to the sauce then simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in honey and cinnamon, then continue simmering uncovered for another 10 minutes. Pour hot sauce over chicken pieces, then decorate with almonds and serve hot.

Chicken and rice

Serves about 8 to 10

In the Horn of Africa where this dish originates, it is made using a whole chicken, cut into serving pieces, and the rice is cooked with the remaining ingredients. However, I think that my version is more pleasing to the eye.

5 Tbsp. cooking oil
3 pounds chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes
1½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. coriander leaves, chopped
1 small hot pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cardamom seeds
3 Tbsp. tomato paste, diluted in ½ cup water
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups cooked rice, kept warm

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the chicken. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and fry, turning frequently, until the pieces begin to brown.

Stir in the onion, garlic, coriander leaves, and hot pepper, then fry over medium/low heat for about five minutes, adding a little more oil if necessary. Stir in remaining ingredients, except the rice, and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium/low heat for 45 minutes, adding a little more water if necessary.

Spread the rice on a serving platter then place the chicken pieces on top. Spoon the sauce over the chicken pieces and serve immediately.

Cantonese almond chicken

Cantonese almond chicken

Serves about 6

I have dined on different versions of this dish for years, but this is my favorite.


1 Tbsp. cornstarch, dissolved in
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup white grape juice
2 tsp. sugar

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

1 pound chicken breast, cut into ½-inch cubes
4 Tbsp. thinly sliced leeks
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
4 Tbsp. peanut or olive oil
1 cup water chestnuts, drained and sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups snow peas cut into about ½-inch pieces
½ cup lightly toasted whole almonds

Place chicken, leeks, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce in a bowl and allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a wok or heavy frying pan then stir-fry chicken with the marinade over medium/high heat for four minutes. Stir in water chestnuts, mushrooms, and snow peas and continue frying for another three minutes. Add sauce then stir-fry for another three minutes. Place on a serving platter then spread almonds over top and serve hot with cooked rice or noodles.

Cabbage and egg salad

Serves 8 to 10

This dish, a favorite of the Syrian Damascenes, makes the consumption of cabbage combined with eggs a tasty and enjoyable event.

4 cups shredded cabbage
½ cup finely chopped green onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. vinegar
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
12 pitted black olives, sliced in half

Place cabbage and green onions in a mixing bowl; set aside.

Combine garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and cayenne, then pour over cabbage and green onion mixture. Mix thoroughly, then place on a serving platter. Spread eggs evenly over top, then decorate with olives and serve.

Tuna omelet — Atun tortilla

Serves about 4

The ajjah (omelet), which is today prepared in the Arab East, is the twin of the Spanish tortilla (this is more like a frittata than either an American omelet or tortilla). While the Arab omelet is enjoyed at breakfast and/or at any meal, the Spanish tortilla is reserved for lunch or dinner because, in the words of my grandson’s wife, our Andalusian princess, “Spaniards almost never eat eggs for breakfast.”

This version is from Andalusia and is on the daily menu of many Andalusians.

4 Tbsp. olive oil plus a few drops extra
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can (6.5 oz) tuna, drained and flaked
4 large eggs
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper

Heat oil in a frying pan, then sauté onion over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add tuna, then sauté for a further two minutes.

In the meantime, beat eggs with salt and pepper, then stir into onion and tuna. Cook over low heat for a few minutes until bottom of omelet begins to brown, checking often with a spatula, then cover frying pan with a plate and tip over.

Add a little oil in the frying pan, then carefully return omelet to frying pan, uncooked side down. Brown for about a minute, then serve hot.

Vermicelli and eggs

Serves about 6

This dish is a unique addition to a gourmet breakfast.

2 cups vermicelli, broken into ½- to 1-inch pieces
4 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 Tbsp. coarsely chopped cashews
2 Tbsp. raisins
4 Tbsp. coconut flakes
2 Tbsp. sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. saffron powder

Cook vermicelli according to instructions on package, then drain and set aside.

In a frying pan, melt butter then sauté onion over medium heat for eight minutes or until lightly browned. Add cashews and raisins and stir-fry for two more minutes. Add remaining ingredients, except vermicelli, and stir-fry for another two minutes. Add vermicelli, stir-fry for one minute, then serve.

Fried vegetables and eggs

Shakshuka — Fried vegetables and eggs

Serves about 8

Made in several different ways, this North African-style dish is tasty and filling.

4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large green pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 small hot pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. ground caraway seeds
½ tsp. cumin
6 eggs

Heat oil in a frying pan, then add remaining ingredients, except the eggs. Cover, then cook over medium/low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Break eggs over the top, then cover again and cook over low heat for a five minutes. Serve while still hot.

Baked eggs

Baked eggs

Serves about 4

Simple to prepare, this dish of Chinese origin is great for any meal.

6 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped cooked shrimp
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Thoroughly combine all ingredients then place in a greased casserole dish and bake uncovered in a 350° F preheated oven for 18 minutes. Serve hot.


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