If I were to make a list of my favourite cuts of meat, then chicken breast would be right down the bottom. I suppose it’s unusual that I don’t get allure, because juicy white breasts are one of the prime supermarket cuts – £21/kg for organic breast fillets in Waitrose – that’s more than the supermarket’s rib eye steak.
Though chicken breast isn’t my favourite, give me a chicken leg, and I’m anyone’s.
Price wise, to put it into perspective, Waitrose’s free range chicken thighs are £8.79/kg…or if you’re feeling a little less saintly (as, I’m afraid, is often the way here) it’s £3/kg for Tesco’s thighs. Not only do if find the meat so much more succulent and flavoursome, but it’s kind on the purse strings too.
Cooking chicken breast can be a pressurised exercise. Take your eye off it, and the breast quickly dries out. Chicken legs or thighs, on the other hand, are far more forgiving. Meat on the bone always stays more moist, and this slow-braised recipe is the kind of thing which gives you a lot more leeway. Ten minutes extra simmering just intensifies the flavour rather than drying out the meat and ruining your dinner.
Just as a parting note, the ras el hanout is the main flavour here, so I recommend that you use a good one. I remain besotted with the Spicentice ras el hanout, which is such an exciting and beautifully-balanced blend.
Braised Persian Chicken
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
4 chicken thighs
4 chicken drumsticks
2 onions, diced
1 tsp salt
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp ras el hanout
1 tsp tumeric
generous pinch of saffron
800ml chicken stock
1 tbsp honey
1. Heat the rapeseed oil in a casserole pan. Put the chicken in the pan – turning the whole time so that the skin turns nice and golden. Remove from the pan, and set aside.
2. Turn down the heat – and once the oil has cooled a little, add the onions and salt. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes – and then add the ginger, ras el hanout and tumeric. Stir on a low heat for a minute, to ensure that the onions are coated in the spices, and that the spices have had a chance to heat up and start to release some serious aromas.
3. Stir the saffron into the chicken stock, add it to the pan, and then plunge a full tablespoon of honey into the hot water, so it easily dissolves off the spoon. Nestle the chicken pieces in the pan, so that they’re mainly submerged. Bring the liquid up to a simmer, and then put it in a preheated oven at 180C for 40 minutes.
4. Take the chicken out of the oven. Remove the pan lid, and cook on the hob at a gentle-medium heat for a further 25 minutes, so that the sauce reduces a little.
5. Serve with a herby tabbouleh.