She’s a wise bird, that Diana Henry. I know from my own experience here on Mrs P that chicken recipes are hugely popular. Maybe it’s because people try to avoid red meat, maybe it’s because it’s easy to knock up a quick supper with a couple of chicken joints you’ve picked up on the way home from work. Maybe it’s just because a good chicken is so very tasty and versatile.
Ms Henry has written an entire cookery book dedicated to chicken recipes and I imagine it’s flying off the shelves (sorry). It’s called A Bird In The Hand, published by Octopus. My sister in law, a very fine cook, looked at it and said “I want to cook everything in this” and I agree. It’s all too easy to cook the same old favourites over and over again but this book will have you going off piste in no time. There are recipes that are entirely new to me and fresh takes on old favourites.
It’s subtitled “chicken recipes for every day and every mood” and it pretty much covers all the bases. Quick suppers, spicy dishes, Sunday lunches and posh parties, salads and barbecues, comfort food and full-on feasts, not to mention what to do with the leftovers, in the unlikely event that there are any.
I badly want to try the bourbon and marmalade-glazed drumsticks, the tajine with pears, the poussins with black grapes and saba, the Persian chicken with pistachios, the chicken pot-roasted in milk … I have to stop, my stomach’s rumbling.
I picked this recipe, rather prosaically, because I wanted something spicy for supper and I had all the ingredients to hand. It’s very good. Very, very good: fruity, warming (not as hot as some curries so accessible to the chilli averse) and moreish. Don’t be put off by the long ingredients list, it’s really easy to cook and comparatively quick.
Diana Henry's Parsee Chicken With Apricots
2 whole dried Kashmiri chillies
5 cm cinnamon stick, slightly broken up
2 tspn cumin seeds
Seeds from 4 cardamom pods
8 skinless bone-in chicken thighs (I used thighs and drumsticks)
3 cm root ginger, peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil (I used rapeseed)
2 largely onions, peeled and thinly sliced
150 g tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tspn turmeric
1 tspn garam masala
150g dried apricots, roughly chopped
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsbp jaggery or dark brown soft sugar
Salt and pepper
Chopped mint or coriander leaves, to serve
Toasted flaked almonds, to serve (optional)
Put the whole spices into a frying pan and toast over a medium heat for two minutes. Grind in either a pestle and mortar or small food grinder.
Put the chicken in a bowl and add half the spice blend and half the ginger and garlic. Rub this well into the chicken, cover, refrigerate and marinate for an hour (or overnight if you have the time). Bring to room temperature before cooking.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the chicken until it has a good colour on all sides, Remove and set aside.
Cook the onions in the same pan until they’re golden brown: this will take a while but you need it for the colour and flavour. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another five minutes. Add the remaining ginger and garlic, the rest of the spice blend and the grounder coriander, turmeric and garam masala. Cook for two minutes, stirring from time to time.
Return the chicken to the pan with any juices that have run out of it, pour in 200 ml of water and add the apricots, vinegar and jaggery or sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
If the mixture is getting too dry, add a little more water but don’t overdo it, the final dish should be thick and jammy. If it seems a bit thin at the end of cooking, remove the chicken and reduce the sauce, then return the chicken and heat it through again. Serve scattered with the herbs and the almonds, if using.