Simple Provisions

Food does not need to be fancy to be celebrated

Rosewater Chicken

Being served a dish that is so good it makes you hunt down the recipe and make it again and again is such a gift. It’s like someone curating the world’s recipes for you, hand selecting the one that suits your taste and serving you a meal that is everlasting.

My aunt (hi Aunty Roe!) served this Karen Martini chicken dish at Christmas time and it had me going back for seconds. I’ve made it several times since, and with Easter gatherings imminent, I thought I’d share this Cinderella style dish that takes the humble chicken thigh and transforms it into a bejewelled goddess.

Chicken thighs are not the most glamorous of ingredients, but the darker, moist meat found on the thigh is full of flavour thanks to a higher fat content. You can pick up a tray of thighs cheaply, which makes them great for feeding a crowd. The list of ingredients for this recipe is long, but the process is simple: marinate, grill, dress, serve. The result is fragrant, sticky grilled chicken with a sweet and tangy dressing, crowned with a colourful array of fruit, nuts and herbs.

A recipe that starts with a satisfying pounding in a mortar and pestle is always going to be full of flavour. Garlic, cinnamon, lemon and thyme are bashed together, filling the kitchen with exotic aromas. This forms the base of the marinade, which gets interesting thanks to the addition of rosewater. This sweet smelling liquid is often used in middle eastern desserts, but in this dish it adds a beautifully fragrant touch to the chicken without being overpowering (it does smell very “rosey” before it is cooked, but softens in the final product). Marinating the meat in this heady concoction for a few hours sets this dish up to be packed with flavour.

The dressing uses pomegranate molasses, an ingredient you can pick up from Middle Eastern grocers or fancier food stores. It is a thick, dark red reduction of pomegranate juice that tastes sweet and tart. I didn’t have any when I first made the dish so I substituted maple syrup instead. Although it lacked the delicious tang the pomegranate molasses provides, the flavour was still interesting thanks to the sweetness of the maple. (If you do find pomegranate molasses, here’s some ideas for how to use the leftovers). Also, rosewater essence can be easier to find than rosewater, so a few drops of that with some extra oil can be used instead of rosewater if your supermarket is lacking in the persian department.

Grilling the marinated chicken provides a more masculine, charcoal flavour to compliment the delicate rose. Serve on a platter at the table, with the rich, thick dressing pooling in and around the chicken, and the aromatic mint, vibrant pomegranate arils and crunchy nuts adding texture and glamour.

Happy Easter.

Rosewater Chicken

Rosewater Chicken

Serves 6-8. Marinating time is at least 2 hours. Cooking time is about 20 minutes.

Taken from Karen Martini’s recipe in Better Homes and Gardens, August 2013 


  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 8 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sea-salt flakes
  • 4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 150ml rosewater
  • 8 chicken thighs (skin and bone still attached preferably, skinless and boneless still work though)
  • 3 tablespoons flaked almonds
  • Seeds of ½ pomegranate (my favourite way to get the seeds out of the pomegranate is like this)
  • ¼ bunch mint, leaves picked
  • Cooked couscous, to serve


  • 2 small red chillies, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (or maple syrup, for a sweeter end result)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons rosewater
  • 120ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar


Pound your garlic, cinnamon, lemon juice, thyme, pepper and salt in a mortar and pestle to a coarse paste and transfer to a bowl. Add oil and rosewater. If you’re using chicken thighs with skin and bone still attached, score the skin and run the knife along the length of the bone on the underside of each cutlet. Massage the marinade into the chicken, cover and put in the fridge for at least 2 hours to let the flavour develop.

Cook your chicken on a BBQ or chargrill pan over a medium-high heat until chicken is cooked through (20-25 minutes).

While that’s happening, make your dressing by putting all the ingredients into a bowl and stirring to combine.

Pop your cooked chicken onto a serving dish, pour the dressing over the chicken and sprinkle with almonds, pomegranate seeds and mint. Serve with cous cous.

44 thoughts on “Rosewater Chicken

  1. Saskia (1=2) says:

    Rosewater and chicken – I would never have dreamed of that combo!! Looks and sounds beautiful Amelia. I’ve only ever sprinkled rose water on sweet concoctions like dried fruit salad. Really keen to give this recipe a burl. Super impressive crowd-pleaser! And your photos – as usual, phwoarr! LOVE the steel blue napery with the jet black pan. Ace post.

    1. Amelia says:

      Thank you Sas. I love Karen Martini’s middle eastern inspired dishes, she always does interesting things.

  2. mawarre says:

    Really delicious looking, and such an interesting mix of flavours. I, too am a Karen Martini fan – her recipes are always interesting, yet approachable. I think this might get a try out over Easter at our place.

    1. Amelia says:

      Wonderful! Happy Easter Margaret.

  3. Deepa says:

    Oh my god this looks like all sorts of deliciousness! Will try it…..thanks for the recipe! Gorgeous pics too.

    1. Amelia says:

      You’re welcome Deepa.

  4. Leah says:

    I love your photos. We had someone make this recipe on our cookbook book club recently and it sounds delicious.

    1. Amelia says:

      I saw you did Karen’s Syrian Chicken recently Leah. A friend brought that to us to put in the freezer when our baby arrived and it was absolutely delicious. I’ll have to follow your instructions to try it for myself.

  5. Looks amazing! I love cinnamon on chicken, a little bit brings out such a spiced flavor. Can’t wait to try this one!

    1. Amelia says:

      You’re right Donald, a great combo.

  6. Pure and Simple Living says:

    Reblogged this on Living: Pure & Simple and commented:
    Yum! Delicious comfort food lightening up this dreary day :)

    1. Amelia says:

      Thanks for reblogging it!

      1. Pure and Simple Living says:

        Thank you for being open to having your fabulous recipe shared out! Love your blog :)

  7. erin says:

    This dish is so beautiful! I can see why it was especially a hit at Christmas! ;) You’re making me want to splurge on some rosewater and pomegranate molasses!

    1. Amelia says:

      Do it Erin! If you’re a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes, there’s plenty of uses for the molasses in them.

  8. Looks so delicious and fragrant…I can almost smell it!

    1. Amelia says:

      Yes, the kitchen smells amazing with this recipe.

  9. I love the colors in the pan! Looks fabulous!

  10. chefjulianna says:

    I am so excited to get this recipe and can’t wait to try it! I recently bought a Persian cookbook, so I will be able to use the rosewater and pomegranate molasses in some of the recipes found there too! Thanks so much this is beautiful and right up my alley!

    1. Amelia says:

      I also bought a persian cookbook recently Julianna. The New Persian Kitchen. I saw it won the cookbook competition on Food52, so I couldn’t resist. I love these flavours.

      1. chefjulianna says:

        Oh, I will look for it! Mine is called “Pomegranates and Roses” and I bought it at Powell’s Books in Portland. It is a wonderful cookbook!

  11. Pure and Simple Living says:

    Amazing looking dish! Can’t wait to try it and thank you for sharing :)

  12. I have a bottle of rose water that I never know what to do with. This is it! On my to do list, thank you!

    1. Amelia says:

      You’re welcome!

  13. This sounds delicious Amelia – I’ve bookmarked it to make sometime in the next week or so over Easter! Thanks :)

    1. Amelia says:

      Pleasure! I love your idea for mixing rosewater essence into ice-cream – gorgeous!

  14. thechefcat says:

    Oh lovely to mix chicken with pomegranate and mint. This one sure is exotic.

    1. Amelia says:

      It makes for a very fragrant kitchen, that’s for sure.

  15. That looks so delicious, and (more importantly!) is so beautifully photographed! :-)

  16. It looks beautiful! Such a fresh and inviting dish. Hope I get to try this recipe soon!

  17. What a refined and unique chicken dish – I keep finding us eating the same chicken dishes over again. Definitely going to add this to the rotation.

  18. Susan says:

    This is my kind of food. I love chicken thighs; “glamourous” or no. Beautiful photos.

  19. laurasmess says:

    This is such a beautiful flavour profile. I’m pretty much addicted to Middle Eastern food so I’ll be running to the shops tonight to make this! I never would’ve thought of adding that much rosewater to chicken though… I’m fascinated to taste it. I agree with the rest of the commenters, your photograph is absolutely beautiful. Cannot wait to try this. Hope that you had a beautiful Easter Amelia x

  20. I’ve just tried this! (Well with a few tweaked based on ingredients I had and fancied!) and it’s amazing!! Thanks so much for sharing – I’ve put a link to this recipe on my blog, hope that’s okay!

  21. This looks amazing! Of course being gluten-free we would not serve it with cous cous, but that’s a minor detail. Great job on the food photography, too. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Maggie says:

    Oh my god! I just made this and it was AMAZING! I used boneless, skinless thighs but let them sit in the marinade overnight. My husband, who doesn’t always love Middle Eastern flavors as much as I do, adored it, too. Thank you, Amelia!

    1. Amelia says:

      Yay! That’s awesome Maggie. Thanks so much for coming back to tell me.

  23. sab says:

    This looks gorgeous! :)

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