Afghani chicken: a weeknight saviour

I’m a tad allergic to bits of chicken; you know, bits of chicken that have been chopped up and wrapped in plastic. You would be too if you’d read the description of how they are prepared in Not on the Label; it’ll turn you into a vegan in seconds. So, most of the time, I try to buy whole chickens and joint them. But, without a freezer, or a roomful of friends, that is not always practical. And sometimes I just want chicken because there is nothing better or easier than a couple of legs (bone-in, skin on: the closest I’ll go to the nefarious, tasteless ‘chicken breast’) marinated and shoved in the oven for 35 minutes. My favourite of all time remains this chicken with feta because you have to love a recipe that requires so little work and yet contains everything you need. And I am constantly on the lookout for other ‘shove-in-the-oven-but-taste-amazing’ combinations. Here’s the latest: a lemony, nutty, creamy yet not sweet chicken which is definitely going on ‘repeat’ in my kitchen.

It’s not quite perfect because it involves marinating (though I did it for a couple of hours, not overnight as the recipe suggests, and it was still gorgeous). However, apart from that there is nothing else to do and so it is worthwhile a) mixing up a double batch of the marinade and keeping some for another night or b) making a double portion of the chicken, as I did, then chopping up the cold chicken through some cinnamon-scented couscous with coriander and pine nuts for a lunch far superior to anything served in a plastic box. Because food in plastic, well it’s just wrong.

Afghani chicken
(I found this in my recipe file and it’s from a magazine but I honestly couldn’t tell you which one because it’s years old; happy to credit anyone who recognises it.)

For two portions
(if served with couscous, rice or some such starch; I had it with cinnamon-scented couscous and some steamed chard)

Cupboard (or things you may already have)
cardamom pods, 3
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shopping list
unsalted cashew nuts, 45g
crème fraîche or double cream, 45g/ml
½ lemon
fresh ginger, about 1cm
skin-on, bone-in chicken legs, 2

How to
1. Peel and chop the ginger. Juice the lemon half.
2. Put the cardamom pods, cashews, crème/cream, lemon juice and ginger into a food processor or blender. Blitz to make a thick paste. Taste and season.
3. Slash the skin of the chicken legs with a knife then cover them completely with paste (not attractive, hence the arty shot of cashew nuts…). Leave to marinate for as long as you’ve got, the longer the better.
4. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan-assisted/gas 4 then roast the chicken pieces for about 30-40 minutes until browned on the outside and free of anything pinky on the inside.

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