I have been putting olives in nearly everything recently, thanks to this generous gift from a house guest (thank you, Tim). It’s a whopping 1400g jar of my favourite sort of black olives, fruity, wrinkled and salty. Any friends who suggest that could equally describe me should consider themselves removed from the Christmas card list.
Regular readers will know that my sister-in-law Sarah crops up often in these pages. She’s an exceptional cook and when we were scratching our heads over something interesting to do with a plate of chicken joints the other day, she suggested something like this. Sadly her visit here was all too brief and she had to go home before I got round to making it.
It’s my take on the Sicilian classic, pollo in agrodolce, or chicken in a sweet and sour sauce and it’s unbelievably good. The sauce reduces to a slick, sticky glaze, with flavour bursts of olives, capers and raisins (or in this case, sultanas, because I like them better) and the chicken is so good you’ll be sucking the bones. Try it and see for yourself.
I served it with Greek-style lemon potatoes, which I didn’t think worked all that well, so I asked Rachel Roddy for her thoughts. Rachel is the author of the superb Five Quarters cookery book written in her Roman kitchen and her partner is a Sicilian. She says her mother-in-law always serves the dish with bread while she favours rice. Either would be good though I think I’m with Rachel on this one. She is currently working on her second book so keep an eye out.
2-3 tbsp olive oil
4 bone-in chicken thighs/drumsticks, skinned
2 small to medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp sultanas or raisins
2 tbsp sugar
12-18 black olives, pitted (or green, if you prefer)
2 tbsp capers
150 ml red wine vinegar
Orange or lemon segments to squeeze over
Toasted pine nuts and fennel fronds, to garnish
Heat the olive in a deep frying pan (one with a lid) and brown the chicken joints on both sides. Remove and set aside.
In the same pan, cook the onions gently until soft and golden. Put the chicken back in and add the sultanas, sugar, vinegar, capers and olives. Turn up the heat and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. A spatter guard is handy here.
Turn the heat to medium-low, put on the lid and cook for a further 20-25 minutes. Check the seasoning and add freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste, though you may find it’s salty enough because of the olives and capers.
Squeeze over the citrus juice, scatter with toasted pine nuts and garnish with a few fennel fronds, if you have them, for an extra flavour dimension.