Pot-Poached Spiced Chicken

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Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

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This dish is prepared using the universal and ancient one-pot technique, which is here enlivened by considered spicing and the addition of lightly cooked vegetables at the end of the cooking process. Finally, it is thickened with pitta. All poached meat dishes are improved by cooking in strongly flavoured stock and this is no exception.

It is good practice to make chicken stock on a continuing basis, for it complements any meat and, in some cases, may be also used with fish. When you get into the habit of producing stock beware, for the process is not an end in itself. You make stock as a preliminary ingredient. If this sounds too obvious, consider the case of Gordon Gout, an enthusiastic cook who became obsessed with creating ever more toothsome chicken stocks, which he spent hours clarifying until they glowed like jewels. He grew to love them for themselves, would take visitors to the refrigerator to compare the colour and jelly of different batches, until - under a three-line whip from his wife Brenda — he reluctantly moved on to reducing and freezing his collection in ice trays. While still unwilling to use these broth icons, he is being helped to do so by counselling.


  • 1 free-range chicken, weighing about 1.35 kg/3 lb
  • 1 litre/ pt chicken stock (optional)
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 large ripe plum tomatoes
  • 2.5 cm/1 in piece of root ginger
  • 4 large garlic cloves (ideally new season’s)
  • 2 onions
  • 1 large hot red chilli
  • handful of coriander leaves
  • 4 stale pitta breads
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • extra-virgin olive oil, to serve



Put the chicken in a pot which will just hold it snugly, pour over the stock and top up with cold water to cover. (If you have no stock, put the chicken in a larger pot surrounded by some carcasses and bones together with sliced peeled carrots and unpeeled onions, then cover with cold water.) Bring to the boil, lower the heat and skim. Then simmer for 50—60 minutes, until a leg will pull easily away.

Carefully transfer the chicken to a dish. When cool enough to handle, cut and pull off the flesh and reserve. Return the bones to the pot, add the lime leaves and simmer for another 1-2 hours.

Pass the stock through a sieve into a clean saucepan and boil over a high heat to reduce by one-quarter.

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan over a low heat for 2-3 minutes. Grind to a powder and reserve.

Blanch, peel and deseed the tomatoes, then dice the flesh. Peel the ginger and garlic and grate. Peel and dice the onions. Split, deseed and mince the chilli. Destalk the coriander leaves, reserve a few for garnish and chop the rest. Cut the pitta into 1 cm/½ in strips.


Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients and sauté the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli over a moderate heat for 2 minutes, stirring well.

Add the chicken meat, together with the ground toasted cumin seeds and the chopped coriander leaves. Pour over the stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer the mixture gently for 10 minutes.

Add the pitta strips and tomato dice and stir. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Bring back to a simmer, stir again, turn off the heat and cover. Leave to stand for 5 minutes.


Transfer to a warmed tureen for serving in large soup bowls. Garnish with the reserved whole coriander leaves and dribble over a little extra-virgin olive oil.

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