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Somalian-inspired stuffed chicken with toasted Ontario barley, squash and malawa

Brought to you by the student chefs from Taste Canada’s 2020 Cooks the Books, try your hand at Somalian-inspired stuffed chicken with toasted Ontario barley, squash and malawa (crepes). Chefs Nadra Ali & Sagal Ismail from Thistletown Collegiate Institute created this delicious meal as part of the cooking competition.

Somalian cuisine is well renowned for irresistible spice blends, this dish combines complex flavours with a silky sauce, velvety squash puree and nutrient rich Ontario Barley. In true Somalian tradition, sop up the plate with the tender Malawa crepes.

Yeild: 4 servings

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes


 Stuffed Chicken Breasts:                                                                

  • 4 6oz (680g) boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups (500ml) fresh cleaned spinach
  • ½ cup (125ml) diced onion
  • ½ cup (125ml) finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 cloves finely diced garlic
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) Somalian spice blend * (see below)
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) canola oil

For the Sauce:

  • 28oz (475ml) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups (375ml) chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ cup (125ml) diced onion
  • ½ cup (125ml) finely chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup (125ml) plain yogurt
  • 2 cloves finely diced garlic
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) Somalian spice blend* (see below)
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) canola oil

Toasted barley:

  • 3 cups (750ml) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup (250ml) pearl barley (rinsed and drained)
  • ½ cup (125ml) cilantro
  • 3 tbsp (45ml) canola oil
  • 1 tsp (5ml) salt
  • 1tsp (5ml) black pepper

Somalia spice blend:

  • 2 tbsp (30ml) salt
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) allspice
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) cumin
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) chili powder
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) coriander
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) onion powder
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp (5ml) turmeric
  • 1 tsp (5ml) paprika
  • 1 tsp (5ml) cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp (5ml) curry powder

Malawa (Somalian crepes):

  • ⅓ cup (80ml) ground Ontario pearl barley
  • 2 cups (500ml) Ontario wheat flour
  • 1 tsp (5ml) baking powder
  • 2 cups (500ml) homogenized milk
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1 tbsp canola oil (for cooking)

Butternut Squash Puree:

  • 2 cups (500ml) peeled, diced butternut squash
  • ½ cup (125ml) 35% whipping cream
  • 2 tsp (10ml) Somali spice blend


Preparing the Chicken & Sauce:

  1. Mix the Somali Spice blend in a bowl 
  2. Saute Onions and garlic with 1 tbsp. Canola oil and 1/2 tbsp. of the spice mix over medium heat, as the onions begin to soften add the spinach and cilantro. Stir mixture until the spinach has wilted. Set aside to cool.
  3. Using a small boning knife slice a pocket inside the middle of the chicken breasts, once the spinach filling has cooled down divide the mixture into the 4 chicken breasts.
  4. Coat the chicken breasts with 1 ½ tbsp. Spice mix, lemon juice and soy sauce.
  5. Preheat a non -stick pan over high heat, add 1 tbsp. of canola oil and brown the chicken on both sides. Transfer chicken to a small tray and finish baking in a 350 F (175 C) degree oven for 20 minutes.Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
  6. Add to the frying pan the canola oil, onions, garlic and spices, fry until golden brown. Add tomatoes and stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. To finish the sauce, use a hand blender or food processor to make smooth and silky, add in the yogurt and fresh chopped cilantro.

Preparing the Malawa (Somalian Crepes)

  1. Sift together the dry ingredients, combine the beaten egg and milk together. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until smooth. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  2. Over medium heat in a non-stick pan use a small ladle to spread the crepe mixture thinly into a circle. Prepare 4 pancakes, 1 for each person.

Preparing the Squash

  1. In a saucepan cover the Squash with cold water, bring to boil and then simmer until tender (typically 20 minutes).
  2. Drain squash, transfer to a food processor, add cream and seasonings. If the mixture is too thick you can adjust the consistency with more cream or some vegetable stock.

Preparing the Toasted Ontario Barley

  1. Combine the stock and the Ontario Barley in a saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat and then turn down to a simmer, cook for 25-30 minutes until tender.
  2. In a food processor puree the 2 tbsp. canola oil with the fresh cilantro
  3. Toast your barley with 1 tbsp of canola oil, salt and pepper over medium heat in a non-stick frying pan. Drizzle the Cilantro puree over the toasted Barley.

Now its time to plate your masterpiece! Have fun putting down the lines of the sauce, the squash and the Ontario barley. Slice the chicken on a bias and fan over top, revealing the vibrant spinach filling. Serve a whole crepe on the side or cut it into more manageable pieces for the guests to enjoy!


#TrainWithGrainsTip from Nadra and Sagal: Make up a jar of the Somali Spice blend and keep it close by to add an exotic twist to your everyday cooking. Pack it in a pretty mason jar with some ribbon and it will make a great hostess gift!