Overnight chicken stew with Israeli couscous. (Photo: Miriam Kresh/Unpacked)

It’s funny how thoughts turn to comforting food just when you’re busiest. You’re getting hungry; you want something savory, something that cooks by itself and doesn’t need minding, but tastes like mother love. Here’s a dish for you, then, one that cooks slowly at a low temperature. It does take some preparation, but you can walk away from it, and when you return, it’ll be perfect. A good fix-ahead for cold weather, while you’re out doing things (or sleeping).

And if you don’t have Israeli couscous in your pantry, you should. All of those very short-cut pastas (“farfel” to the traditionalists like me) are great to have on hand. They have long shelf lives and cook up quickly into tender little morsels that define comfort food. You can cook them savory, you can cook them sweet. Top them with sauce, serve them plain on the side, or incorporate them into other cooked dishes and soups. Children love them. So do grownups.

Overnight chicken stew with Israeli couscous

PrintPrep30 minutes Cook Time4 hours Yield6


  • 2 cups (500 grams) Israeli couscous
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups boiling water plus 1/2 cup later
  • 1 entire, jointed chicken or 6 leg and thigh piece
  • 1 tiny red chili, or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne flakes (Optional)
  • 4 medium potatoes, thickly sliced (Optional)


  • Rub salt and olive oil into the chicken pieces. In a large pot, fry the chicken on all sides in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Remove from pot.
  • Add 1/3 cup oil to the pot and in it, gently fry the onions until they’re very soft and golden.
  • Add the Israeli couscous, stir, and fry for 3 minutes.
  • Add the 4 cups of boiling water. Stir, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper. Cover and cook 8 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and fluff the Israeli couscous with a fork. Let it cool somewhat and then remove it from the pot to a bowl.
  • Line a deep oven-proof dish or casserole with baking parchment or foil. If adding potatoes, put a layer of them on the bottom and up around the sides, until they’re all used up. (Or add to a crockpot to make overnight for Shabbat!)
  • Put half the Israeli couscous in casserole (on top of the potatoes, if using). On top of it, place the chicken pieces. Add the paprika, cumin, bay leaf and optional chili.
  • Top with remaining pasta and add 1/2 cup hot water.
  • Cover all with baking parchment. If you wish to cook eggs in this stew, either place them alongside the chicken pieces or on top of this parchment cover. Cover the pot with its lid and make sure it’s down tight. If necessary, wrap tin foil around the top to make sure no steam escapes.
  • Bake overnight in oven set to 215° F (100° C), or 4 hours at 300° F (150° C). (Or on low in a crockpot.)

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