I had some friends coming round for dinner and wanted to make a non-spicy Persian chicken dish that was full of flavour, super easy, could be made in advance, and finally, that would be pretty to look at.
So I cast around on the internet for inspiration, searching with combinations of ingredients until I found a recipe that sounded like a good starting point: Sainsbury’s magazine – Persian Chicken. But this was for grilled chicken thighs and I prefer the slow cooked, meltingly tender result when you stew chicken thighs slowly in liquid. (And you get a delicious soupy sauce too – bonus!) So I adapted it for slow cooking, making a kind of marinade inspired by my favourite Persian saffron and orange stewed chicken recipe.
Stewed chicken thighs can look rather unattractive but the green, red and white of the coriander leaves, almonds and the jewel-like pomegranate seeds make it look a lot prettier, hence the name.
Bejewelled Persian Chicken
- 8 large chicken thighs (make sure you go for really high quality meat, it makes all the difference)
- 1 red onion, finely sliced
- grated zest and juice of 1 orange
- 1 tsp ground cardamom (grind up using pestle and mortar)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp sumac
- 2 preserved lemons, seeds removed, finely chopped
- handful of dried apricots, chopped
- handful of almonds, finely chopped
- handful of coriander, leaves picked and chopped
- sunflower oil
- 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- seeds of half a pomegranate
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Mix all the dry spices together, plus the grated orange zest, the preserved lemons and a teaspoon of salt. Add two tablespoons of sunflower oil and stir to combine.
Put the chicken thighs in a large bowl and pour over the spiced oil to marinade. Time to get your hands dirty: rub the marinade all over the surface of the chicken thighs.
Cover and put in the fridge: allow at least an hour for the marinade to work its magic on the chicken.
In a large casserole dish that can go in the oven, cook the sliced onions on a medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are completely soft. In batches, add the chicken pieces and seal them all over.
Return all the chicken to the pan, add the chopped apricots, orange juice and some hot water until the chicken is more or less submerged but not totally swimming. Bring to the boil and then put the lid on tightly and pop it in the oven for about an hour to an hour and a half, checking and stirring a couple of times. Taste to check the seasoning.
When you are ready to serve, add the chickpeas and bring to the boil, stirring to distribute them evenly.
Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the chopped almonds, coriander leaves and pomegranate seeds.
I served it with basmati rice and a garlicky yoghurt dip sprinkled with zata’ar on the side.