Yield
serves 4 to 6

This dish seems simple, but I can’t tell you how much I love it. I’d heard about a Turkish relish-cum-salsa made with crushed green olives and chiles and the desire to try it became overwhelming one night. I have no idea whether this is anything like the Turkish relish I was told about and I don’t care. I just bashed everything together, adding and adjusting. When I’d finished I knew I would make this for the rest of my life. It packs a punch, it includes my beloved cilantro, and is so hot it makes you reach for a beer. I make it a lot to go with lamb as well as chicken.

The chicken and relish are good with rice, of course, but if you’re in the mood for a wrap, well, there’s nothing better. Make sure you get plenty of cucumber and lettuce in the wrap too, though. That relish needs taming.

For the chicken:

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

For the relish:

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • sea salt flakes 
  • 1 green chile
  • 1 red chile
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • leaves from 8 sprigs of 
mint, torn
  • 1/3 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • good squeeze of lemon juice, plus lemon wedges to serve

To marinate the chicken, mix the regular oil, cinnamon, cayenne, cumin, garlic, and salt and pepper together to make a marinade. Make little slits all over the underside of the pieces of chicken with the point of a knife. Put the chicken into a dish. Add the marinade and roll the chicken in it to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for a couple of hours, or overnight. Bring it to room temperature before cooking.

Make the relish just before you cook the chicken. Put the garlic and salt into a mortar and bash it with a pestle until it is crushed. Halve and seed both chiles and chop them roughly. Add them to the mortar with the cilantro, mint, and olives and bash everything together, gradually adding the virgin olive oil and balsamic until you have a rough paste (it should be chunky, not puréed). Add lemon juice to taste and set aside.

Heat a ridged grill pan. Lift the chicken out of the marinade, shake off the excess, and set it on the pan. Start off cooking it on medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side, then reduce the heat to low and cook for another 4 minutes. The chicken should be cooked right through and charred, but not burnt.

Serve the chicken with lemon wedges, rice or flatbread, a bowl of Greek yogurt, and the relish. Cucumber and a green salad are good, too.

From A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley 2015.