FSeasonal fresh and dried fruits such as quinces, cranberries, figs, apples, pears, raisins, prunes, dates and currants are obvious choices for cakes and pastries, but shouldn’t be. not be reserved exclusively for puddings. Associated with heady spices such as saffron, cinnamon and cardamom, they bring an amber gluttony to roasted meats and poultry, to stews and curries, to rice and pilaf cereals. This imaginative and delicious way to add fruit to savory dishes has long been popular in North Africa and the Middle East, and feels opulent and festive, making it ideal for the holiday season.
Roast chicken with honey and lemon confit with quince
In the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, quinces are highly prized, but in Britain we don’t really seem to know what to do with this sweet-scented fruit which is inedible when raw. Here, while the chicken is cooking, the quince caramelizes in fat, honey and spices, and gives the dish its unique aroma and flavor.
Preperation 45 minutes
to cook 1h10
Rest 15 min
1 x 1½kg chicken
Sea salt and pepper
100g unsalted butter
1 heaped 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 heaped 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 chilli berry, ground
1 of saffron strands, pounded
½ c: Turmeric
A generous grated nutmeg
5 large cloves of garlicpeeled
1 candied lemon
2 clear honey
1 red onion, unpeeled and cut in half
1½ lemons, the ½ squeezed lemon and the whole lemon cut in half
2 bay leaves
4 quinces, peeled and cut into quarters
200 ml chicken broth
A few drops of good quality rose water (I love Cortas)
Season the chicken all over, including the inside of the cavity, with S&P. Heat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / 390F / gas 6.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, then stir in the ginger, cinnamon, allspice, saffron, turmeric and nutmeg. Mix the garlic and the flesh and skin of the candied lemon until finely chopped, then add them to the melted butter. Mix well and infuse gently over low heat for five minutes. Stir in the honey, then let cool.
Massage the skin of the chicken by pinching and loosening it on the breast area, then push your fingers under the skin of the breast and pull it out of the flesh, being careful not to tear it. Anoint the chicken with the melted butter and push the pulpy lemon-garlic mixture under the skin of the loosened breast. Stuff the onion, lemon and bay leaves in the cavity.
Place the quinces in a drip pan, then pour in the lemon juice. Place the chicken breast on top and pour the broth over the fruit. Roast for half an hour, then turn the chicken breast upside down and baste with the pan juices. Cover tightly with foil and roast for another half an hour (first roasting it upside down, the juice from the fatty skin under the chicken will drip off and baste the meat, which means the breast will be moist and succulent).
Remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes to make the skin crisp. Remove, sprinkle with rose water, cover tightly with foil and let stand 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Rose water will add a wonderful scent and sweet sweetness to this already fragrant dish.
Rice pilaf with nuts and cranberries
The rice is cooked Persian style to obtain a crust, or tahdig. With the textural contrast of chewy rice, berries and crunchy nuts, this makes for a sensational treat that is delicious as a side dish with chicken or even on its own with a dollop of yogurt.
Preperation 15 min
Soak 30 minutes
to cook 50 minutes
300g of basmati rice
Sea salt, to taste
60g of ghee (I love Superghee)
50 grams flaked almonds
6 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon feather, broken
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
5 cm of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced into matchsticks
50 g each of dried cranberries and golden raisins, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained
1 big pinch Saffron, soaked in 150 ml of hot water
50g crushed pistachios
1 large handle finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Soak the rice in a large bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. Drain and then pre-cook in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water to refresh, drain again and set aside.
Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the almonds until golden, then remove them with a skimmer and drain them on a plate covered with paper towels.
Add the cardamom, cumin and cinnamon to the pot, sauté briefly until fragrant, then add the chopped onions and sauté until caramelized.
Add the ginger, sauté until fragrant, then add half the rice and distribute evenly across the bottom of the pan. Cook without stirring until a golden crust forms at the bottom – this will take eight to 10 minutes – then sprinkle over the cranberries and raisins and stack the remaining rice in the center of the pan to form a mound. Do not stir.
Pour the saffron water, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and steam, still covered, for about five minutes. Garnish with nuts and parsley and serve hot with the chicken.
Fiona Beckett’s drink match I’m tempted to suggest an orange wine to accompany this exotic recipe – it pairs particularly well with quinces – but it might be a bit too far for Christmas. Rhône blanc or Roussillon would be a less difficult choice: try Domaine Lafage Centenary 2020 (£ 11.60 vinvm.co.uk), a tasty blend of Grenache and Roussanne or, from next month, Vacqueyras Blanc 2020 from Aldi (£ 9.99, 13.5%), which is part of this supermarket’s new Winemaster’s Lot line.