As the temperature drops, all I want to do is cook things on low and slow. Soups, stews, roasts…things that take a few hours to cook, that need to be eaten in bowls while wearing fuzzy slippers and sweaters.
A few years ago I discovered a Persian restaurant in Toronto called Pomegranate. For my first dinner there, I enjoyed chunks of lamb in a split yellow pea stew, beside basmati rice studded with dried fruit and nuts. I had never known the joy of combining meat with dried fruit, and it was completely magical! Since then I’ve always wanted to recreate the deep, sweet and savoury flavours of the meals I enjoyed there – but with all perfect memories, there is also the fear of marring the past with present-day re-enactments. Finally however, this past week I mustered up the courage to strive forth and commemorate a food combination that has always been in the back of mind, slowly simmering.
This particular recipe is inspired by one from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. The original version called for quail (which I’ve never seen available in the prairies) so I settled for some chicken pieces. The golden raisins replaced apricots and currants – I think any sweet dried fruit would be perfect.
Braised Chicken with Golden Raisins and Tamarind
makes eight servings
5 thighs and 5 drumsticks, bone-on, skin-on
4-5 dried chiles
1-1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1-1/4 cup water
juice of 1/2 an orange
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cups golden raisins
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp tamarind paste
3 twigs of thyme
handful of parsley
Blend the chiles, cumin, fennel and salt in a Magic Bullet or some other fast-moving blade (or mortar and pestle!) into a powder. It’s ok if there are some chunks. Rub the spice mix over the thighs and drumsticks with the sunflower oil, and let it marinate for at least 2 hours.
When you are ready to cook, heat a touch of sunflower oil in a saute pan to medium-high heat. Brown the thighs and drumsticks, about 4 minutes per side. Remove the bird meat from the pan, and pour out most of the oil until just a thin coat remains. Add the water, orange and lemon juices, raisins, sugar, tamarind paste and thyme. Add the chicken back in. The liquid should come about 3/4 up the sides of the meat. Cover, and let it simmer for about 25 minutes, turning the chicken over halfway through. If you want the sauce thicker, remove the chicken and boil for a little longer. Garnish with parsley and an extra sprinkle of salt.
We ate it with plain basmati rice to help soak up the deliciously sweet and tangy sauce. A lovely meal it was: warm and satisfying without leaving a sense of lethargy. The past is nice, but the present is even better.