Mahmudiye: chicken with shallots, apricots & almonds

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This is a re-post (new and improved!) of one of my all-time favourite recipes.

I’m excited about this recipe. It’s the first I’ve cooked from my new book, Istanbul by Rebecca Seal and it caught my attention when I was hungrily flicking through the pages because it sounded very similar to a terrible dish I once had in a Morrocan restaurant! I’d ordered an apricot and almond chicken parcel. It came out scattered with icing sugar (first sign of horror lurking under those flaky pastry sheets) and dotted with rose petals, and tasted so sweet I wondered if they’d mistakenly bought a dessert out. But no, underneath the icing and intense rose-flavoured filo, somewhere lurked some apricot and almond chicken. I couldn’t taste it, and just couldn’t eat it. In fact, no one could eat their food. So until yesterday I was still waiting for my chicken with apricots and almonds.

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This dish, Rebecca informs me in her recipe, is an old Ottoman dish – you can tell because of the sweet spices and addition of fruit – that is completely simple to prepare and make. There is barely any chopping of any sort to do. The only other small change I made to this dish was upping the quantity of orzo slightly, plus I added green beans, which I like in this context. I loved the balance of quantities in the resulting dish and would make it exactly the same way again – in fact, I’ll be making this all the time. It’s comforting, satisfying, really surprisingly flavoursome (given the lack of spices) and SO easy and fuss free. Finally, I got my chicken with apricots and almonds.

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You will need:

200g chopped dried apricots
2 tbspn sultanas
A knob of butter
12-15 (round) shallots, 4 finely chopped and 6 peeled and left whole
900g free range chicken thigh fillets, chopped into large bite-sized pieces
1/2 tspn cinnamon
The juice of 1 1/2 lemons
100g freshly toasted flaked almonds
650ml hot homemade chicken stock (approx)
300g orzo
200g green beans, halved (optional)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Method:

1 – Soak the apricots and sultanas in boiling water for ten minutes til softened then drain
2 – Melt the butter in a large flat frying pan and add the shallots; cook on a low – medium heat for ten minutes until they turn golden
3 – Once the shallots are nicely softening add the chicken to the pan to brown
4 – Brown the chicken all over before adding the cinnamon lemon juice and seasoning; cook for a further five minutes then season well
5 – Now add most of the chicken stock and the fruits; bring to the boil and then reduce the heat so that the mix is simmering before covering with a lid or foil and leaving to bubble away for 30 minutes
6 – At this stage return to the pan and tip in the beans and orzo pasta and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the orzo is al dente; add any remaining stock, plus any extra needed depending on your pasta variety
7 – Check the seasoning and then serve with the toasted almonds scattered all over the top of the dish and a sharp green salad dressed with lemon

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