Home Cooking: Za'atar Lemon Roasted Chicken and Saffron-Infused Pomegranate Rice

This weekend I tried something different. After reading "Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes" by my current favourite celebrity chef, I've become intrigued with the cuisine of Morocco, especially a hard-to-find spice called za'atar which a number of recipes from the region incorporate. Za'atar is a very fragrant, tangy blend of sesame seeds, thyme and sumac. After finally finding it in a local specialty store, I pulled together this recipe of za'atar lemon roasted chicken with a side of saffron-infused pomegranate rice. This was a partial success; I don't feel I've developed the palate for this particular spice (and there were too many other ingredients in the rice for the saffron to truly shine through), however, my partner felt it was very reminiscent of the food he ate while living in Africa years ago. He also ate all the leftovers. Yay! 

"Food Escapes" also talked about the communal ovens of Morocco which I found very interesting. Citizens fill clay pots called tangias with a variety of ingredients and drop them off to be slow-cooked over fire all day. The concept is a sharp contrast to the west's expectation of fast-food but I feel this would be so much more delicious (and obviously healthy). I would love to travel to North Africa to experience it. 

 Za'atar lemon roasted chicken with saffron-infused pomegranate rice (©Deborah Clague)

Za'atar lemon roasted chicken with saffron-infused pomegranate rice (©Deborah Clague)

 Za'atar lemon roasted chicken being readied for the oven (©Deborah Clague)

Za'atar lemon roasted chicken being readied for the oven (©Deborah Clague)

 This marks the first time I've cooked with saffron (©Deborah Clague)

This marks the first time I've cooked with saffron (©Deborah Clague)

 Prepping ingredients (©Deborah Clague)

Prepping ingredients (©Deborah Clague)