Chicken with Prunes, Saffron & Paprika

Rick Stein is one of my absolute favourite TV chefs. He seems to me such a good personality, with his never ending passion for food that it’s almost infectious. He also is great story teller, with a good sense of humour. I loved his ‘Long weekends’ episodes and after watching it, I discovered Bologna. My sister lives just an hour away from Bologna, but every time visiting her, I never considered to visit this place, thinking of it more like a ‘bus or a train stop’ on the way to Tuscany or further a field. And only after watching an episode on Bologna by Rick Stein we decided to pay a visit, and so glad we that we did.

Then again, inspired by his other trip, we went to Sicily and fell in love with the country and its FOOD.

By coincidence, a friend of mine gave me his book (‘Long weekends’) for my birthday, I was thrilled. Not only does it take me back to those wonderful locations from the series and my own travels, it’s also packed with amazing food ideas, tips and techniques.

One of my highlights from this book is this recipe below. It takes only a few ingredients and no time to prepare at all, mainly waiting for it to be cooked.

CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, SAFFRON & PAPRIKA

(from Rick Stein’s ‘Long weekends’ book)

Ingredients:

8 skinless chicken thighs

1 litre water

pinch of saffron

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 red onions, finely sliced

1.5 tablespoon sweet paprika

20 pitted prunes

1 teaspoon salt

blask pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Place the chicken thighs in a saucepan with the water and the saffron. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow to poach for 10-15 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
  2. In a large heavy bottomed pan heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and gently sweat the onion util very soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the paprika, cook for 2 minutes, then add the chicken thighs, about 700ml of the cooking liquid and the prunes. Season with the salt and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes, until heated through.
  4. If at the end of the cooking it remains very watery, remove the chicken, prunes and onion with the slotted spoon and keep it warm while you reduce down the sauce until desired consistency.
  5. Serve it with some rice dish of your choice. I also love it with plain buttery buckwheat.

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Saffron Chicken, Chickpeas & Fennel Casserole

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Even though it is summer, I do crave for some comfort food but a lighter version. This one is comforting but yet refreshing and zingy at the same time! It is not the prettiest looking dish but you’ll forget the look when you will taste it 🙂 Ideally, use a large heavy bottom/cast iron pan with a lid for it.

SAFFRON CHICKEN ,  CHICKPEA  & FENNEL CASSEROLE

(Adopted from Belinda Jeffery)

Ingredients:

2 large onions, diced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 bulb fennel, sliced

3 celery sticks, chopped

1 fresh chilli pepper, finely chopped

3 bay leaves

2 pinches saffron threads

1-2 cinnamon sticks (you can skip this if you don’t like or not sure about the taste)

6-8 chicken pieces (thighs, legs, on a bone)

1 can (400ml) chopped tomatoes

1 can (400 ml) chickpeas

green olives handful

Juice & zest of 1 lemon

salt, pepper to season

Olive oil

Method:

1. On a medium heat in a large heavy bottom pan warm up the olive oil and sauté the chopped onions for about 7 minutes. Add garlic and chilli, cook for another 2 minute. Then add chopped fennel and celery and continue cooking for 8 minutes. Crush gently the saffron  between your fingers to release extra flavour and add to the vegetables followed by cinnamon sticks (if you are using it). Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.

2. Push the vegetable to the side of the pan and place the chicken pieces in a pan, let them brown a little, then cover them with the vegetables, pour the chopped tomatoes on a top, then fill up the can from tomatoes half full with cold water and add to the pan, followed by drained chickpeas (everything should be just covered with water).  Season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover with the lid and let everything gently bubble for 25 minutes.

3. After 25 minutes, take off the lid, turn the chicken pieces around and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes without the lid. Close to the end of cooking add the olives and lemon juice and zest of the lemon. Adjust the seasoning.

Serve with steamed rice, couscous, naan bread or anything else you like 🙂

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