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Turkish Chicken in Spicy Orange Sauce

October 21, 2013

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My new passion for Turkish food continues and I decided to make a chicken dish that comes from the south of Turkey which I found in the Ghillie Basan book, Classic Turkish Cooking, I wrote about in the spinach dish yesterday. I’d bought a chicken in the farmers’ market yesterday which I planned to joint and freeze in portions. But then I invited Jonathan and Lyndsey round for supper so the chicken was jointed and all cooked! My son, whose passion for cooking may even exceed my own, bought me a boning knife as part of my birthday present earlier in the year.

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I have a number of excellent tools in my kitchen which are presents from him as part of his mission to make sure I’m very well equipped – and very appreciative I am too. I have to say the boning knife was a revelation as I found it so much easier to do the job than with other knifes I have. I jointed the chicken – following Jonathan’s Masterclass instructions, propping my iPad on the kitchen worktop – into eight portions. Then I gathered all the other ingredients together: 2 red onions, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons currants, 3 oranges, nigella seeds, coriander seeds, dark honey, 1 cinnamon stick, cinnamon powder, 2 chillis and fresh mint.

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I decided one of the great things about the dish – apart from it sounding delicious – was that I could cook it early in the day and warm it through at suppertime while I cooked some rice and made a salad to go with it. The first thing you do is warm 2 tablespoons olive oil and a knob of butter in a shallow pan. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and then lightly brown in the oil. Transfer to a plate.

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Now add to the same pan 2 sliced red onions, 2 garlic cloves crushed with salt, 2 of the oranges each cut into 8 segments with their skin, 1 teaspoon nigella seeds and 2 teaspoons coriander seeds. Add a dash more olive oil if necessary.

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Cook for a couple of minutes and then add 2 tablespoons currants, 1 tablespoon dark honey, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1-2 whole chillis (depending on size and heat), a few fresh mint leaves chopped. Pour in 150ml water (or stock, see below) and the juice of 1 orange. Bring it all to a boil and then turn the heat low and simmer for 10 minutes.

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Now add the chicken pieces, cover with a lid and cook for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

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Remove the cinnamon stick and whole chillis. Check seasoning. Mix 3-4 tablespoons Greek yogurt (preferably Total) with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint and swirl into the dish or serve on the side.

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I served the chicken with some plain rice and green salad. I thought with all the fruitiness and spice in the chicken dish it needed only simple accompaniments.

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It was very delicious and we enjoyed it. I have to say though that the dish didn’t have quite the depth of flavour I prefer with this kind of meal. I decided that another time I’d brown the chicken a little more (not just ‘lightly brown’) and also cook the orange, onion and spices more before adding liquid so the oranges took on a slightly caramelised look and taste. I’d also chop the chilli rather than put it in whole as it was a very hot chilli but that didn’t really come out in the dish. I’d not put whole chillis in before to remove at the end so thought I’d try it – but not again.

The recipe also uses water and I think stock would bring a much fuller flavour. I actually had some stock gently bubbling away from making some with the chicken carcass so it was really a little silly of me not to use it rather than follow the recipe so carefully. But that’s the thing with recipes. On the whole I think you should try them out as written first time … and then start to play. Anyway, I know I’m guilty of being super-critical when I cook something new and as we ate, we discussed how we could improve the dish, as we’re prone to do as a family. But it’s part of our enjoyment and pleasure. It didn’t detract from this being a delicious supper and I’m pretty sure I’m going to play with this recipe a little and try it again soon.

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