I’m loving reading the Honey & Co. Food From the Middle East cookbook and after making the gorgeous Cherry, Pistachio & Coconut Cake last week, I decided to try out a main dish today. This great chicken recipe is a simple all-in-one, which can be prepared ahead, so perfect for entertaining, and it immediately appealed to me because of all the wonderful middle eastern flavours that go into it.
The ‘Honey’ people use fresh apricots and say that if you can’t get them – which I couldn’t; it’s too early – then the dish is still good without them. But I thought I’d try adding some dried apricots. Dried fruits are used a lot in middle eastern dishes and I was sure it would work well. I jointed a whole chicken into four and froze two portions; the recipe also suggests you can use chicken thighs if you prefer. Chicken thighs have been popular lately as a tasty and cheap ingredient, but I have to confess I’m not a great fan. And I also wanted to make some chicken stock as I’d run out and needed the carcass. I freeze my stock as large ice cubes so it’s easy to take a few out when I need them. Other than the apricot change, I followed the recipe pretty much as it is in the book, but halved ingredients for just two portions.
Mint and Lemon Chicken with Apricots & Potatoes – Serves 2
- 2 chicken breasts (or legs)
- 4 medium potatoes (enough for 2 portions), peeled and cut into thin wedges
- 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut with the grain into 8 wedges
- ½ head garlic, broken into separate cloves but not peeled
- ½ lemon, cut into wedges
- 8-10 dried apricots (or 4-6 fresh if you can get them, halved)
- olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- ½ teaspoon sumac (available in most supermarkets)
- ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (I didn’t half this – I wanted this much oil)
- 1 preserved lemon
- ½ small bunch fresh mint (about 10g), roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sumac
First of all, joint the chicken if you’ve bought a whole one (click here for step-by-step instructions).
Mix all the marinade ingredients together and add the chicken pieces and coat thoroughly.
Cover and put in the fridge for at least an hour, but a few hours if you have time. When you’re almost ready to cook, prepare the vegetables. Put them in an ovenproof dish, drizzle over a little olive oil, sprinkle over a little sea salt and mix round to coat. Lay the marinated chicken pieces on top.
Put the dish into a preheated oven at 220C/200 Fan/Gas 7 for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully mix things round a bit so the vegetables cook and brown evenly. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
While the chicken is finishing cooking, prepare the salsa. The preserved lemon should be cut in half and pips and flesh removed and thrown away. Just use the skin and chop finely and put in a small bowl. Add the chopped fresh mint, olive oil and sumac. Mix well.
I found I needed to brown my potatoes a bit more (I probably should have cut them thinner!) so I removed the chicken portions and covered them in foil to keep warm while I cooked the potatoes for another 10 minutes. Then I was all ready to go.
I transferred half of the vegetables and fruit to a plate and lay the chicken portion on top. Then I spooned over half the salsa.
I served with a simple green salad on the side and a glass of Villa Maria’s wonderful Sauvignon Blanc.
It looked and smelled pretty impressive and it tasted wonderful. Such gorgeous flavours with the slightly salty preserved lemon; the sumac spice with its hint of lemon; the freshness of the mint; the sweetness of the apricots and red onions; the tender spiced chicken. And don’t forget the garlic. I often add unpeeled cloves to roasting potatoes and you end up with a glorious creamy soft garlic inside the skin, all ready to smooth over your potatoes – or in this case chicken and potatoes! I loved this dish and am sure to cook it again and look forward to fresh apricots arriving soon to try it with them.