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Tuesday
Dec282010

Masala Chicken with Apricots

Recipes can come from all manner of sources.  Some are passed down to us through the generations; their tried and tested, well-loved methods providing both sustenance and family memories.  Our favoured food writers deliver glorious tomes, ranging from the simple supper to an eighteen-stepped, complex sugar creation, each selection delivered to us in the form of solid, reassuring books.  Then there are those recipes that we find in magazines, supplements, newspapers and, in more recent years, on the internet.  They are the ones that catch our eye and induce us to tear out their pages or bookmark to print, in order to cram them in to an increasingly full folder of sumptuous food marked, ‘to cook’. 

I love nothing more than an afternoon or evening spent paging through a collection – mine or someone else’s – happily visualising the meals I will make in the near future.  There is such joy and pleasure in discovering a new angle or ingredient that just demands that you give it a try.  Sometimes the results can be a bit of a letdown (variations of ovens, sense of timings and tastes being what they are) but on occasion you can find yourself an absolute gem of a recipe, the kind that finds its way into your cooking repertoire with ease and slowly, steadily becomes part of your family food history.

This incredible recipe is an adaptation from November 2010’s edition of the Observer Food Monthly, which saw various food writers give their own version of a Christmas menu from around the globe.  This curry was the writer’s childhood favourite and it is understandable why: it possesses a wonderful balance between the heat of the chilli and the dense sweetness of the apricots, making it a fragrant and intensely coloured dish.  I served it accompanied by a bowl of steaming white basmati rice and a good handful of chopped coriander – it was so glorious, it needed little else.

Given the time of year I can tell you that the masala sauce alone can do wonders for leftover chicken or turkey.  I would skip the first step and jump straight into making the sauce, once you have completed the third step of leaving the sauce to simmer for a final 10 minutes, roughly chop an onion and your leftover meat and finely chop a red chilli.  Sauté the onion and chilli in a little groundnut oil until soft, throw in some turmeric, ground coriander and lemon juice and continue to sauté for a minute or two.  Add the leftover meat, pour over the masala sauce and then bake in the oven or over a low heat for the remaining cooking time.  Whichever way you make it; I can tell you that this will go down a treat for the New Year celebrations.

MASALA CHICKEN WITH APRICOTS

Serves 4

For the marinade

4 chicken breasts, skin on

1½ tbsp groundnut oil

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp ground coriander

¼ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp sea salt flakes

 

For the masala

3 tbsp groundnut oil

2 medium onions

12 dried apricots

4 cloves of garlic

2 tsp soft brown sugar

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground black pepper

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick – approximately 4cm long

1 x 250g tin of chopped tomatoes

400ml chicken stock

Mix the ingredients for the marinade together in a mixing bowl.  Score the chicken breasts diagonally across their skin so that you have three, 1cm deep cuts across each breast.  Place the chicken in with the marinade and stir so that each breast is well covered.  Leave to marinate for a minimum of 3 hours.

Meanwhile, peel and cut the onions in half and then cut into finely sliced half rings.  Next, crush the garlic cloves, roughly chop the apricots and set aside.  Pour the groundnut oil into a large, shallow pan and heat over a medium flame.  Once the oil is hot, add the bay leaf.  Next, add the sliced onions and fry over a medium heat until golden brown and caramelised – this should take at least 10 – 15 minutes. 

Once caramelised, add the crushed garlic and cinnamon and stir through.  Leave the onions for 2 minutes and then add the ground coriander, garam masala and black pepper.  Stir through for a minute or two and then tip in the tomatoes, leave to sauté for 10 minutes and then add 100ml of the chicken stock.  Reduce the heat and leave to cook gently for a further 10 minutes.  Add the chopped apricots, brown sugar, lemon juice and remaining stock to the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.  Season to taste and then set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200c (180c Fan).  Take a large casserole dish (or a pan that can be put in the oven) and drizzle a little extra oil on to the bottom.  Heat the oil until hot and then lay the chicken breasts, skin side down and cook over a medium flame for 3 minutes so that the skin becomes browned and slightly crisp.  Turn the chicken breasts over and cook for a further minute.  Pour the masala sauce over the chicken breasts and place in the oven.  Cook for 15 minutes and then remove from the oven, cover and leave to rest for 5 minutes.  You can then either lift out the chicken breasts and slice them, or serve them whole, pouring the sauce over and around.

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Reader Comments (6)

Oooh, so lovely rich and sweet. I love putting fruit in curries it adds such an extra dimension of flavour. Hope you had a good Christmas.

December 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterInTolerant Chef

IC, A wonderful Christmas thank you. I too love the apricots in this, it makes for a beautiful curry. Happy New Year wishes to you.

December 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Intolerant Gourmet

Oh yum yum on these cold horrible days. Delicious mix of the spices. Fa start to my new year

January 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjulia

Thanks Julia, it really is a warming dish and the leftovers made a beautiful biryani - brown basmati, coriander, peas, cashews and tenderstem broccoli. Mmm.

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Intolerant Gourmet

I read about this recipe in the OFM and wanted to give it a go, it looks really lovely. Is it particularly spicy?

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJane

Thanks Jane, actually, it is not 'hot' at all but it does have a really lovely, mellow mix of flavours to it. If you wanted it hotter I would add a few whole red chillis to the sauce.

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Intolerant Gourmet

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