Winter hasn’t even begun and the weather is already starting to get on my nerves. In my world the only way to counteract the horrors of dark nights, clocks going back and overhearing endless Christmas muzak is by finding glorious food that fills my kitchen with wonderful smells and my stomach with warmth and flavour. And this easy and short Ottolenghi recipe has ticked all my boxes twice already in the last week.
Lots of people I know complain about Ottolenghi recipes, saying that they require too many ingredients but since most of the complainers live in cities, and not in the posh bits of those cities where the corner shop is Harvey Nicks, I think that’s a tad disingenous. For those who are really beyond the reach of local shops that supply odd stuff, there is a small thing called the internet which sells, erm, everything. This site, for example, is brilliant. And, for the terminally lazy, there is now an Ottolenghi webstore; it even tells you which recipes go with which ingredients…
This gorgeous dish only requires one unusual ingredient: rose water; the rest are the sort of spices you can find anywhere. It reminds me of a ginger and coriander chicken I used to make when I was a postgraduate student: you cook the chicken in onions and spices, then make a thick sauce with nuts, cream and yoghurt. It is heavenly: simple, fragrant and as comforting as a blanket. I might just stay indoors, eat this till I’m fat and wait for the sun to come out again.
For two portions you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
sunflower oil, ½ tablespoon or thereabouts
onion, 1 small
garlic cloves, 2
steamed rice or couscous, to serve,
chicken thighs, 4
fresh ginger, about 10g (about an inch-worth)
dried chillies, 2
whole cloves, 2
cardamom pods, 3
cinnamon sticks, 2
almonds, 50g (I used flaked but he uses blanched whole ones)
Greek yogurt, 125g
double cream, 50g
rosewater, 1 teaspoon
1. Liberally salt the chicken thighs.
2. Heat a lidded sauté pan or casserole over a high heat, then add the chicken. Sear on all sides until coloured and a bit golden. This should take about five minutes.
3. Whilst the chicken is searing prep the flavourings and spices. Peel, top and tail and finely chop the onion, ginger and garlic (keep the garlic separate since it is added slightly later), zest about half of the lemon and lightly crush the dried chillies and cardamom pods under the blade of a knife.
4. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pan and add the oil to the same pan, followed by the onion, ginger, lemon zest, chillies, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Stir them into the oil then, on a medium heat, sauté them gently for about five minutes.
5. Add the garlic to the pan and leave to cook for a couple of minutes.
6. Return the chicken to the pan, add 200ml of cold water, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Stir it occasionally and add a spoonful or two more of water if it looks a bit dry. If you are serving rice or couscous with this you might want to start that off about now.
7. Whilst the chicken is cooking, toast the nuts in a dry frying pan until lightly coloured on both sides (a couple of minutes at most). Put most of them into a blender or small food processor and process to fine crumbs.
8. Add the yogurt to the processor, process until just combined then add the cream and rosewater and, again, process until just combined. Don’t overblend or the sauce may separate.
9. Empty the contents of the processor into a bowl and add a spoonful or two of the cooking juices from the chicken and stir in. Do this a couple of times until the creamy sauce is warmish then pour the lot into the chicken pan and stir together.
10. Bring the chicken and sauce back to a simmer and cook for another five minutes or so.
11. Serve sprinkled with the reserved nuts and with halves of lime (squeeze the juice over the top; it’s lovely).