This short article is reported to have been written by the wife of King Ahasuerus’ Chamberlain Hatach, food editor of the The Persian Village Voice. Unfortunately we were only able to obtain an excerpt and not the whole megillah.
(10 Adar, Shushan) The Kingdom is still abuzz with the news of the delectable two-night private banquet commissioned by Queen Esther of Shushan for her husband, King Ahasuerus of Persia. Word has it that the idea for the feast came to the Queen while donning her royal apparel in the inner court of the palace: "I thought, heck--why not have a wine feast? The King drinks an awful lot of wine and it's been forever since I've gotten to entertain in my own house."
A slight stir was caused when the guest of honor, the King's Royal Advisor, Haman, was asked to leave his gift of a kid seethed in its mother's milk at the door. "I thought it was pot luck. Who knew?" was his response. Ever since moving into the palace, the Queen has been driving the banquet staff crazy ordering two sets of every dish and utensil. "Her eating habits are a little weird, but boy can she cook!" stated a close friend who asked to remain unnamed.
On the first night of feasting, Queen Esther herself presented her guests with a delectable platter of chicken with chickpeas, saffron, raisins, ginger and couscous. Even though she has thousands of servants at her beck and call, the Queen was determined to prepare the dish herself and serve it to her guests personally. On the second night the main dish was . . . chicken with chickpeas, saffron, raisins, ginger, and couscous. When asked about her menu choice, the Queen replied, "I have to be honest with you. This is the only thing I know how to cook--really. My Uncle Mordechai who sits outside the palace gates told me it is important for a girl to be able to cook one thing in the event she is not taken out to dinner."
Though the banquet was a private one--set in the Queen's chambers--a separate party was convened for the 720 runners-up of the King's beauty contest and their sponsors.
As far as we can tell, a good time was had by all. Yet, although delighted to see that dessert was served in the shape of his hat, Haman was concerned that the braided bread, for which the Queen is the talk of the town, was served to him twisted in the shape of a noose.
Chicken with Chickpeas, Saffron, Raisins, Ginger and Couscous for 800
- 400 kilograms of chickpeas (or use canned)
- 1200 cloves of garlic, halved
- salt as required
- 400 medium chickens, about 400 kilograms in total
- 1 pound each ground ginger and pepper
- 5 handfuls pulverized saffron
- 1 pound turmeric
- 6 pounds fresh parsley, chopped fine
- 1 stick of cinnamon per chicken, about 8 cm. long
- 200 onions, chopped finely
- 2 urns olive oil
- 200 onions, sliced thinly
- 5 pounds raisins
1. Have the servants sort through the chickpeas, cover with water and soak overnight.
2. In a small bowl, make a paste of half the garlic cloves and 1kilo of salt. With this mixture, rub the chickens inside and out. Let stand 10-15 minutes and then rinse the chickens under running water. Pat dry.
3. In another bowl, combine the ginger, pepper and remaining garlic and grind to a paste. Add an urn of water and mix well. Rub the chickens inside and out with this mixture, cover and keep cold overnight.
4. Drain the chickpeas, rinse well and place in a large saucepan. Pour over fresh water to cover, bring to the boil and reduce the flame. Cover and simmer until the chickpeas are tender (about an hour).
5. Transfer the chicken to a lightly greased casserole and pour over any liquids remaining in the bowl. Add the saffron, turmeric, parsley, cinnamon, chopped onion and olive oil. Pour over 400 cups of water (or stock) and bring to the boil. Reduce the flame, cover and simmer for 1 hour, turning the chicken 4-5 times. After one hour, remove the chicken and set aside to keep warm.
6. Add the sliced onion, cooked chickpeas and raisins to the casserole and cook until the onions are soft and the sauce has reduced to a thick gravy. Return the chicken to the sauce and heat through. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, transfer the chicken to a preheated unbelievably deep serving dish, spoon over the chickpeas and sauce and serve immediately with couscous made according to the directions on the box.
7. Serve with kosher wine.
Until we eat again . . .
Lisa Kelvin Tuttle is the Communications Director for the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation. She has professional experience in the gourmet, catering, and health-food fields, as well as being an experienced kosher camp cook. This article firstappeared in the March 2006 Purim spoof issue of The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, for which Lisa writes a monthly food column, The Kosher Table.