I had a huge spring clean recently and culled my pantry with all the zeal of Martha Stewart on steroids. Amongst some forgotten treasures (ooh, chestnut cream!) and some obscure, barely used ingredients (asafoetida, anyone?), I was appalled by my stockpile of unused spices. Little jars and bags accumulated through the discovery of new dishes but which had sadly lost their magic and fragrance. So I threw out my dusty little collection and replaced them with fresh jars of the spices I use again and again.
My favourite ones are…
fennel seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, black pepper, smoked paprika, coriander seeds, star anise, ground cinnamon, whole nutmeg and cloves.
With these little lovelies, I can flavour Moroccan or Indian dishes, brew a pot of chai tea, make a Chinese master stock or enhance my baking.
Making use of 3 of my essentials, tonight’s dinner was deliciously spiced chicken in a fragrant broth.
Spiced Chicken, Yoghurt, Prunes, Coriander
- 6 chicken thighs, preferably bone in, skin optional
- ½ lemon, zest and juice of
- 4 garlic cloves
- a thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled
- ½ bunch coriander, chopped
- 1 tb olive oil
- 2 medium onions, sliced finely
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- a knob of butter
- 1/3 c prunes or dates, chopped
- 1 red capsicum, sliced into strips
- 1 sweet potato, chopped
- 2c chicken or vegetable stock
- ½-1c yoghurt (or coconut cream)
- 1/4 c toasted almonds or pine nuts
Blend the lemon, garlic, ginger and coriander to a paste in a food processor. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a deep pot on medium heat. Add the onions, cover with a lid and cook until soft (about 10 minutes).
Add the butter, spices and a big pinch of salt and cook while stirring until fragrant. Push the onions to one side and add the chicken, skin side down. Cook the chicken thighs until golden brown. Turn over, season with salt and pepper and add the coriander paste and the stock. Stir well. Add the prunes (or dates), the capsicum and sweet potato. Simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes or until the sweet potato is cooked through and the chicken is tender. Turn the heat off and stir through the yoghurt.
Serve with fresh coriander, the toasted nuts and an extra dollop of yoghurt if desired.
Make it your own: add a tin of chickpeas when you add the yoghurt for a more robust meal and great leftovers. I particularly like this dish with wholemeal couscous and wilted spinach but steamed brown rice, barley or quinoa would also be delicious. If you can’t find chicken thighs with the bone in, use marylands, drumsticks or a mix of thighs and drumsticks.