Delice de chocolat with apricot sauce

I made this for dessert on New Year’s Eve. It was a bit time-consuming but well worth the effort. Continue reading


Chicken, apricot and almond pilaf

This is, I suppose, a Persian-influenced dish rather than anything actually Persian. Chicken and apricot is a nice mixture and I added in some sautéed almonds for texture.

First I skinned, jointed and part-boned a chicken, using the carcass for stock, which I made with an onion, a carrot and a stick of celery, plus water. This would be used to cook the rice later.

The legs were cut into thighs and drumsticks, the wings were separated into two pieces and the breasts were cut into three. All the meat was coated lightly with flour.

First I sautéed some skinless almonds in olive oil in an oven- and hob-proof casserole. These were set aside to be used later.

Then I softened three sliced shallots and three crushed cloves of garlic in the same oil, with the addition of a large knob of butter, together with three bay leaves and a cinnamon stick.

When the shallots were softened and lightly coloured I added the meat and sealed it all over. I deglazed the pan with some white wine – not very Persian, I suppose, but a good thing for the overall flavour of the finished dish.

At this point I added in one lemon, cut into eighths, and enough Basmati rice to fill a measuring jug to the 300ml mark. When the rice was coated with oil, I seasoned with salt and pepper and added in 600ml of stock and brought this to a simmer.

This was them covered and the casserole placed into a 160C oven for about 30 minutes.

I steeped some saffron threads in milk. This would be added at the end of the cooking period together with some chopped semi-dried apricots and the almonds.

Once the rice was done, I added in the fruit and nuts and dribbled the saffron-infused milk over the rice and returned this to the oven for a further five minutes.

This was served from the casserole at the table, garnished with chopped parsley.

Quails with apricot and pistachio pilaff

Quails are lovely little birds to work with, they have a good flavour and don’t take long to cook.

They are best spatchcocked, which means taking out the backbones and serving them whole, which I think is what the French call en crapaudine, because they look a bit like flattened toads.

I cooked them in butter and a bit of olive oil in a frying pan, until the skin was golden and then finished them off in the oven on top of the pilaff I was making at the same time.

For the pilaff, I sautéed some finely chopped red onion in olive oil with a piece of cassia bark, a couple of bay leaves and a few green cardamom pods. When the onion was soft, I added some pistachio nuts and flaked almonds and Basmati rice. When the rice was coated, I added chicken stock and some chopped semi-dried apricots and a teaspoon of Aleppo pepper flakes and cooked the rice until it was nearly done.

The rice and quails were then finished off in the oven, covered with some foil to prevent the rice from drying out too much.

That was it, served with some chopped parsley.

Middle-eastern chicken with apricot pilaff

Following on from Friday evening’s curry, I felt like something else spicy, but this time a bit more refined in flavour.

I marinated chicken breasts in a mixture of Syrian hot pepper paste, lemon juice, yoghurt and chopped dill and coriander for a couple of hours before baking them in the oven.

To go with the chicken I made a pilaff with sautéed onions, apricots, chicken stock, pine nuts and saffron, with chopped fresh dill, mint and coriander added at the end of the cooking time.

I finished the plate off with some more of the same chopped herbs, sliced tomato and cucumber and a drizzle of good olive oil.

This wasn’t too spicy so picking a wine wasn’t really that difficult. We had a bottle of 2008 Château Bois Pertuis from Waitrose. This is a predominantly Merlot-based wine with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from the northern part of the region and is drinking pretty well now, with soft ripe red fruits on the palate.

I suppose we could have drunk a full-bodied rosé with this and, if it had still been Summer, we probably would have. However, Autumn is well established now and red wines seem far more appealing.