syrian chicken, karen martini

My first celebrity test kitchen is of a recipe by my absolute favourite celebrity chef – Karen Martini. Her cookbook style couldn’t sit more squarely in my preferred form of entertaining. Lots of generous, flavour-packed recipes made for sharing for both every day and special occasions.

The aim of celebrity test kitchen is to sample recipes from popular cookbooks to test their real world reliability. Are they clear, forgiving, able to have ingredients switched out based on what’s really in one’s pantry. Do they work?

It’s a rainy night in Sydney and myself and the sous chef are opting for a quiet night in. It’s a perfect opportunity to try a recipe from one of my most thumbed Karen Martini books, the Syrian Chicken with Lemon and Saffron.

I have the majority of ingredients on hand, bar a few ‘switch outs’ and a quick dash to the corner shop.

Cooking at Home, Karen Martini

Cooking at Home, Karen Martini

Switch outs: Don’t have a whole chicken but do have chicken thighs. Don’t have whole tomatoes but do have half a punnet of cherry tomatoes in the fridge. Sous chef bought raisins instead of currants. I reduced the raisins given they are probably sweeter then currants. Here’s the slight variation of Karen Martini’s recipe that I took to the test chicken. Didn’t have couscous but did have burghul.

Syrian Chicken Recipe Book

Syrian Chicken Recipe Book


  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500 gm chicken thighs
  • 1 spanish onion, halved and thickly sliced
  • 50 gm ginger, julienned
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • ½ punnet cherry tomatoes, halves
  • 3 sprigs thyme, leaves only
  • Large pinch saffron
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp lemon rind
  • 1 heaped tsp honey
  • 3 tbsp raisins
  • 1 cup chicken stock, approximate (to cover chicken)
  • Half bunch coriander, leaves only, chopped
Syrian Chicken Ingredients

Syrian Chicken Ingredients

1. Put the salt, ground cumin, cinnamon, turmeric and pepper into a plastic bag and drop the chicken thighs in to cover.
2. Heat olive oil in a heavy based pan then fry the coated chicken thighs to brown on both sides. Remove from pan.

Syrian Chicken Browning

Syrian Chicken Browning

3. Add onions, ginger and garlic to pan and fry until softened. Add cherry tomatoes, saffron and seeds to the pan and stir.

Onions, Ginger, Garlic, Chilli

Onions, Ginger, Garlic, Chilli

4. Add juice rind, honey and raisins to pan and stir.
5. Return chicken to pan then add enough chicken stock to cover.
6. Put a lid on the chicken and cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes.
7. Remove lid and continue cooking for final 10-15 minutes until thickened.
8. Sprinkle chopped coriander just before serving. Serve with cooked burghul.

Syrian Chicken

The test kitchen verdict: As soon as the chicken hit the pan the smell of cinnamon filled the kitchen and I knew I was in for a treat. I ordinarily never julienne ginger – too fussy – but it was an incredibly worthwhile exercise as I think it really made the dish.

This is an absolute fantastic recipe, a bit like fast tracked tagine. The colour is magnificent and the flavour is beautiful. Like the recipes I’ve already tried in this cookbook it’s very accessible for the home cook whilst extending your cooking repertoire into new territories. As noted in the book, Karen’s recipe could easily be doubled to serve more people.

Real life rating: 10/10 – this version or the original recipe is definitely worth a try. The recipe is robust enough that the variations didn’t negatively impact this dish – the result was still fabulous and well recived by the sous chef. The preparation is unfussy (apart from a bit of julienning) and the dish couldn’t have been more successful. If you’ve yet to discover Karen’s recipes Cooking For Home is a beautiful introduction to her recipes. There is a terrific and approachable selection of recipes with my favourites so far being Baked Ricotta with Grapes and Olives (amaze!), Tuna Salad with Flat Bread and Baharat (delish!) and Spice-Dusted Barramundi with Moroccan Herb Salad (a favourite!).

View the original recipe.
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