Sabrina’s Chicken

When I was much younger, I took it into my head to have an adventure and set off to Morocco. I travelled around on ordinary buses, with chickens in boxes on the racks and priests blessing both the journey and the travellers. I ate at roadside cafes and in back street restaurants.  I slept on rooftops of village houses in the Anti Atlas mountains and shared food with the people who lived there.

It was my first real adventure and it was so exciting. The food was so vibrant, so different to anything I had eaten at home – you have to remember this was twenty years or more ago and for a girl from the north of England it was an entirely new world.

Ever since then I have always been intrigued by Middle Eastern and North African food and adore the complex layers of flavours and spices, so whenever I see something new I am irresistably drawn towards it.  I was reading Sabrina Ghayour’s Persian recipes on Foodepedia and spotted Koreshteh Fesenjan and knew that this was going to be next on the agenda.

Koreshteh Fesenjan is chicken stew with walnuts and pomegranate molasses – and the way Sabrina described it made me long to eat it.

I wanted to do it so much that instead of waiting until I got boneless chicken thighs as she suggested, I just took the only pack of chicken I had in the freezer and sorted through the larder for walnuts and my pomegranate molasses.

It didn’t matter – it was delicious… so delicious I think you ought to make this, so get your ingredients ready – Sabrina’s recipe feeds 6 to 8… what I’m doing will feed half that. There was a reason for that – in my greed and eagerness, I knew I had all of the ingredients, just not enough of them to make as much as she did.

That was OK. though. There were only the two of us and while we routinely have a second helping the next day we might not be wanting to eat it the day after that as well.

Get some chicken thighs  – you can buy a packet of them,  already skinless and boneless, (which would have been a better bet than the chicken legs I found, but what the heck!)

Chop a couple of onions

250g of walnuts – that was the two and a half, nearly three bags of walnuts I had .

They need to be ground and as we normally buy them as walnut halves then I have to grind them.  My Bamix has a grinder attachment, so I did it with that, otherwise use a food processor, making sure the walnuts are finely ground.

You will need two big pans for this… in the first, put a tablespoon of flour in and, over a medium heat, let it cook abit until it changes colour slightly.

See? I know it’s not a good photograph, but you can see what I mean.

Meanwhile , in the other pan, start cooking the chopped onions in a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  You want the onions to become translucent, then add your chicken, after seasoning it with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up and turn the chicken in the onions until it is well sealed. Then turn the heat off and leave it. 

Now, back to the other pan…. add the walnuts and stir them in to the flour. You won’t need any oil as the walnuts have, as Sabrina says, a high fat content

After about 5 minutes, add a pint or so of cold water

Give it a good stir and bring it to a gentle boil then turn it down, cover it and let it bubble along for about an hour. I thought that seemed long but I was determined to get this right – it is necessary so you cook the walnuts until you see the walnut oil forming on the surface.

Then stir in a tablespoon of caster sugar and just over half a bottle of pomegranate molasses – oh, I love that. It is sweet but not sugary sweet and sharp in a tangy way. Stir it in and make sure it all dissolves properly and then….

… add the chicken and onion from the other pan and stir round.

Make sure there is enough of the sauce to cover the chicken – add some water if you ned to and then leave to cook, very slowly, for a couple of hours, stirring it occasionally to make sure those walnuts don’t stick to the pan and burn.

The smell of this is divine, it really is.

A sneaky taste every now and again (just to check, you understand) bears this out….the walnut and pomegranate sauce gets darker and the smell fills the room.

Serve with basmati rice, says Sabrina, so that’s what I do to serve with it….

And then?

Have you ever eaten anything that makes you whimper quietly with pleasure?

Oh, it was more than delicious – the texture of the walnuts, with their lovely deep flavour, mixed with the sweet sharpness of the pomegranate molasses and the softness and richness of the chicken …. it made me wonder why no one had told me about this before.

I’m making this again, I tell you. All I can say is thank you, Sabrina for writing about this in the first place.

It needs time to do it, so choose a Saturday or Sunday when the weather is bad. Lock yourself in and make this to cheer you and your loved ones and be very glad that this recipe exists.

Chicken Jalfrezi

We have decided on a new regime. We seem, somehow, to have become rounder.

Somewhat stout, actually. We are going to have to go on a diet. Only thing is, we aren’t very good at diets … well we aren’t very good at chewing on celery and raw carrots.

What we thought we could do is eat as if we weren’t on diets but make sure what we do eat is low calorie.

I started to go through magazines looking for recipes that came in at under 400 calories a serving. My thinking behind this was that if we ate sensibly at breakfast and lunch then we could look forward to something nice at supper.

But supper had to be low calorie….. I wanted proper food not some kind of packet.

You can buy packets of ready meals that have the calories counted for you but that wasn’t the way I was going to go.  If I could make sure that each serving was low calorie but still home made and tasty.. well that was the answer.

If it was only 400 calories a serving then that would mean there was still room to bring in a side dish… we could diet and feel as if we were still enjoying ourselves! All I had to do was find some recipes

One of the first recipes I found was Chicken Jalfrezi in Olive magazine, October 2008.

And it was only 250 calories per serving!

That had to be a winner. So, what did we need?

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A large onion, sliced,

3 cloves of garlic

2-3 green chillies, sliced

Ginger grated

Chicken thighs – 6 cut into chunks

Tomatoes, 5, roughly chopped

Green pepper, chopped into pieces

Coriander – small bunch with the leaves picked off

Yoghurt – small pot

Spice mix

  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves , ground
  • Well, you can see in the picture that it is, first and foremost, rather dark. That’s because I was late in from work and despite all the lights being on, it still looks dark.

    You can also see a tin of tomatoes – I forgot to get fresh. Just as I forgot to get fresh garlic and ginger, hence the tubes of puree. Oh, and the pepper is not green but orange.

    Still… everything else is OK……

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    First thing.. heat 2 tablespoons of  oil in a pan and add the onion and a good pinch of salt and fry until it is soft and golden, then add the chillies, garlic and ginger and cook for another couple of minutes

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    Make the spice mix

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    And add it.. I had also put in the stalks of the coriander (they can’t contain many calories, can they? And they do taste nice)

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    Cook it all for a couple of minutes to round out the flavour..

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    Add the chicken pieces

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    And stir round

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    Then add a splash of water, the tomatoes and the pepper

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    You can now cover the pan and let it cook gently for 30 minutes or so.

    That gives you enough time to go and settle yourself for a while… it had been a long day for me and I was tired. Even so, that wasn’t a lot of work and was surprisingly quick to do….

    The sauce will have started to thicken up by now.. if not then take the lid off for the last ten minutes. If you are using the yoghurt, add it now and stir it in for a creamier sauce. I still had plenty left from the Total Great Greek Yoghurt Experiment, so this was an ideal dish to try it in.

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    and add the coriander leaves

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    I made steamed basmati rice to go with it….and served it up.

    Even with the rice that had to be less than 500 calories.

    A bowl of ice cream is 500 calories.. and that’s a small bowl. I know what I prefer.

    The Chicken Jalfrezi  was quick and easy to prepare (there was a half hour break in the middle while it cooked) and it was ready and served within the hour. It felt like we were having a real meal….. it certainly didn’t feel like any kind of diet I had been on before. The yoghurt made the sauce taste rich and creamy so there was a definite level of luxury about it all.

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    There you go. A way forward out of the diet doldrums. I made that after a long day and it certainly wasn’t difficult but it certainly was delicious.

    400 and Under is the way forward!

    Thai Chicken Soup – the work of moments

    When I first started cooking for the Bear I would assure him that whatever I was doing, it was merely the work of moments. You know how it is when you have just met someone? You want to spend as much time with them as possible……and you also want to impress them with your speed at preparing wonderful food. This soup, though, really is the work of moments.

    I call it Thai Chicken Soup as it does use Thai flavourings. It’s not authentic – I made it up and I dare say people might complain that I haven’t followed a real Thai recipe but I don’t care. It has got Thai ingredients in and it tastes just like Thai soup. I love this soup. It is possibly my favourite soup … though there are many contenders. It is definitely my favourite soup that can stand alone as a meal, put it that way. It has the perfect mix of savoury and sweet flavours, the creaminess of coconut milk, the meatiness of the chicken and the gloriously golden, juicy pop of sweetcorn kernels.

    Probably that’s where people might complain.. after all, corn is South American and this soup is supposedly Asian. I don’t care though. If you are to use that argument then no one but Peruvians can use potatoes. Or tomatoes…. We don’t care though. All we care about is making a deliciously tasty soup that will delight everyone.

    Anyway…. ingredients. I have a selection of Thai ingredients now, so I will list them for you – but to do the soup you don’t HAVE to have them all. I just think that you probably will go out and get them.

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    Thai Green Curry Paste

    Chicken thighs – boned and skinned

    Tin of coconut milk, or coconut milk powder

    Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla)

    Chicken stock

    Palm sugar

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    Sweetcorn on the cob




    Lemongrass (you can get these last three ready chopped, which just adds to the speed of making this)

    I also add, though the soup can be done well enough without, some Kaffir lime leaves and some Thai basil and a scraping of Thai shrimp paste. Maybe if you love the soup as much as we do you might go out and get the extra bits for the next attempt.

    First, peel and chop your onion and saute in a little oil until it is translucent. While that is cooking, cut your chicken thighs into bite sized pieces.

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    Put in a teaspoon or so of Green Curry paste, a squeeze of garlic, ginger and lemon grass and then put the chicken in and stir it round so it gets coated…. keep the heat medium to low, you don’t want to burn it. Add some Kaffir Lime leaves (which come shredded) if you are using them

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    Chop your coriander and add the stalks to the chicken and spices.

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    Make up some chicken stock – a pint or so and when the chicken is cooked though (it looks opaque) add that.

    Then the coconut milk and a splash of fish sauce.  Add a teaspoon or so of the Thai Basil if you are using it.

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    Cut the kernels off the sweetcorn cobs and put them in to cook

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    Then add the coriander leaves and stir in a tablespoon of palm sugar…… taste the soup…..

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    The thing is, you really do has to taste this to get it right…. does it need more salt? Could you add more chicken stock? Or is it the chillies… need a bit more? Just chop a little bit finely and add that. Perhaps you want just a little bit of extra sweetness…. all of this is up to you.

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    You can add those lovely, flat, translucent rice noodles if you want to make it more substantial… but remember to snap them into smaller bits as there’s nothing worse then getting started on a spoonful and having to keep on sucking at a never ending noodle!

    And there you have it.  Beautiful soup with lovely fresh ingredients, ready to eat in under 45 minutes. And the taste…. ohhhh the taste…  that will make anyone who eats it love you.

    Ask the Bear.