Monday, October 8, 2012

Chicken Hawayil

One of the most interesting aspects of my personal culinary adventures is the exploration into different spice mixes.  Over the past couple years, I have made several spice mixes.  These blends include Egyptian Baharat, Libyan Bzaar, Keralan Panni Ularthiyathu and two different versions of Berbere, Ethiopian and Eritrean.  Recently, I was looking for a new spice mix to try in connection with grilling a whole chicken.  I decided to make my search more interesting by focusing upon those blends or mixes that incorporate cardamom.  This focus basically narrowed my search to spice mixes used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking.

As I conducted my search, I fully expected to find and use an Indian spice mix.  I was very surprised when I came across a few recipes for Hawayil, which is a traditional spice mix used in Yemeni cuisine.  Although the recipes varied in terms of the ingredients used to make the mix, the core spices are black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, saffron, cloves and turmeric.  Some other recipes include other spices, such as cumin seeds and coriander seeds.  Ultimately, I decided to make a Hawayil spice mix using the core spices, although I used both green and black cardamom pods, and I added cumin seeds.  (For some reason, I did not have any coriander seeds in my spice drawer; however, I added the coriander to the recipe below for future reference.) 

The recipes also differed as to the preparation of the spice mix.  Some recipes called for toasting the seeds, which is usually done to help release the aromas and flavors.  Other recipes omitted this step.  From what I can tell from my research, toasting the seeds is part of the traditional method for making Hawayil.  Therefore, I adapted the recipe for Hawayil to provide for the toasting of all of the seeds (black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cumin seeds, cloves and coriander seeds).  The toasted seeds are then added to the spice grinder, along with the saffron and turmeric. 

Overall, this is a very good spice mix.  It worked very well with chicken; and, I think it could also work well with lamb or goat.  I will definitely try this mix with other meats.

Hawayil recipe adapted from Ya Salam Cooking
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the chicken):
1 whole four pound chicken, rinsed and spatch-cocked
Salt, to taste

Ingredients (for the Hawayil):
6 teaspoons of black peppercorns
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
3 teaspoons of caraway seeds
1 teaspoon of green cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon of black cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon of saffron threads
2 teaspoons of whole cloves
2 teaspoons of coriander seeds
2 teaspoons of ground turmeric

1.  Prepare the Hawayil.  Heat a small pan on medium heat.  Toast the black peppercorns, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, cardamom seeds, cloves, and coriander seeds for a couple of minutes, moving the seeds to prevent burning.  Once the seeds become fragrant, remove them from the heat and add them to a spice grinder with the turmeric and saffron.  Grind the seeds until they are a powder.  Season the chicken with some salt and add the hawayil rub to all sides of the chicken.  Let the chicken rest in the refrigerator for about one-half hour.

2.  Grill the chicken.  Heat the grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the chicken, skin side up.  Grill for about twenty minutes.  Flip the chicken and grill for fifteen minutes.  Return the chicken to skin side up, and continue to grill for about five minutes more. Let the chicken rest for ten to fifteen minutes.

3.  Finish the dish.  After the chicken has rested, break the chicken down into pieces:  2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs and 2 wings.  Serve on a platter. 


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