top of page

July 17


Saint of the day:
Saint Alexius of Rome

Patron Saint of Alexians; beggars; belt makers; nurses; pilgrims; travellers; Kalavryta

Saint Alexius of Rome's Story (Greek)

The Greek version of his legend made Alexius the only son of Euphemianus, a wealthy Christian Roman of the senatorial class. Alexius fled his arranged marriage to follow his holy vocation. Disguised as a beggar, he lived near Edessa in Syria, accepting alms even from his own household slaves, who had been sent to look for him but did not recognize him,[ until a miraculous icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary (later this image was called Madonna of St. Alexius) singled him out as a "Man of God" (Greek: Ἄνθρωπος τοῦ Θεοῦ). Fleeing the resultant notoriety, he returned to Rome, so changed that his parents did not recognize him, but as good Christians took him in and sheltered him for seventeen years, which he spent in a dark cubbyhole beneath the stairs, praying and teaching catechism to children. After his death, his family found a note on his body which told them who he was and how he had lived his life of penance from the day of his wedding, for the love of God.







The Basilica dei Santi Bonifacio di Sant'Alessio, 23, 00153 Roma RM, Italy





Syrian Lentils


  • 2 cups dried lentils

  • 1/3 cup olive oil , plus extra for drizzling

  • 1 small garlic , (head of garlic) mashed or crushed

  • 1 bunch swiss chard , stems removed and sliced very thinly (about 8 leaves)

  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro , minced

  • 1 lemon , juiced

  • 3-4 Tbsp pomegranate syrup

  •  water , as needed

  •  salt

  •  pepper



  1. Rinse the lentils, cover with a few inches of water, and cook 20-40 minutes, until just tender.
    (Cooking times really vary with lentils, so I suggest checking them after 20 minutes)

  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant.
    TIP: Clifford A. Wright, whose recipe I adapted, says that the flavor is not the same if you don’t pound the garlic in a mortar and pestle. I cut the work in half by crushing it into my mortar and pestle, then banging it out for the rest of the way.

  3. Add in the thinly sliced chard and de-stemmed cilantro leaves (reserve a bit of cilantro for garnish, if desired) and cook another two minutes.

  4. Add the cooked lentils, lemon juice, and pomegranate syrup and cook until the lentils are a bit mushy, about ten more minutes. Add water as needed to keep the mixture loose and to keep it from drying out.

  5. Season really well with salt, to brighten up the flavors. Serve warm with an extra drizzle of olive oil and wedges of pita bread.



Syrian Chicken

This is a simple but exotic dish of chicken with a spiced crispy skin baked with a rich tomato broth. It is served with Giant Couscous (also known as Moghrabieh, Israeli or Pearl Couscous) which can be substituted with ordinary couscous, pasta (risoni/orzo), rice, polenta or even mashed potato.


  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 lb / 1 kg chicken thigh fillets , bone in and skin on (4 to 5 pieces) (see notes)

Chicken Spices 

  • 1 tsp cumin powder

  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder

  • 1 tsp salt

  • Black pepper, TT


  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger , finely chopped

  • 3 garlic cloves , minced

  • 1 onion , halved and finely sliced

  • 2 birds eye chilis , finely chopped (or to taste) (see notes)

  • 1/4 cup (combined) mint and coriander leaves, roughly chopped

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

  • 14 oz / 400 g canned crushed tomato

  • 1 cup chicken stock / broth

  • 1/8 tsp saffron powder (see notes)

  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder

  • 3 sprigs of thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves

  • 1/4 cup dried currants or sultanas (optional) (see notes)

To Serve

  • 8 oz / 250 g giant couscous (Israeli or Pearl Couscous)

  • Yoghurt (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F.

  2. Place chicken on a plate or in a large bowl. Sprinkle with Chicken Spices and use your hands to coat the chicken.

  3. Heat olive oil in a large, oven proof fry pan over high heat.

  4. Add chicken, skin side down, and sear until the skin is nicely browned. Turn chicken over and cook the other side until browned. Remove chicken from pan. Drain pan of excess oil.

  5. Add onion, garlic, ginger and chili into the pan. Saute for 2 minutes until the onion is translucent and starting to brown.

  6. Add canned tomato, chicken stock/broth, saffron powder, cumin powder and thyme. Bring to simmer, then turn the stove off. Nestle the chicken into the tomato broth, then cover with foil (or lid) and place into the oven. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes.

  7. Meanwhile, cook the Giant Couscous according to packet instructions. Usually it just needs to be boiled in salted water for around 4 minutes, then drain it.

  8. When the chicken is dark golden brown and cooked, remove from oven. Stir through dried currents (if using), lemon juice and half the mint and coriander. Then sprinkle over remaining mint and coriander.

  9. Serve on Giant Couscous with a dollop of yoghurt, if using.

Recipe Notes:

1.  Make this dish with the skin on, bone in chicken thigh, bone in the meat always makes it juicier.

2. You can substitute the birds eye chili with 1/2 to 1 tsp chili powder (adjust quantity to your taste).

3. Giant Couscous (also known as Israeli or Pearl Couscous) is available in the pasta section alongside ordinary couscous in most large supermarkets. You can substitute with ordinary couscous, pasta (risoni/orzo), rice, polenta or even mashed potato.

4. The proper way of making this is with saffron threads. However, I use saffron powder because saffron threads are really expensive (it's the most expensive spice in the world!). You can substitute the saffron powder with a pinch of saffron threads.

5. I made the currants / sultanas optional because I am not the hugest fan of dried fruit in savory food and I think that this dish has dust a strong flavor anyway that it isn't necessary. However, the traditional way of making this in Syria includes currants.

bottom of page