Ginger-Flavoured Provençal Chicken

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The Provençal style of French cookery is justly famous and is among my very favourite cuisines. Its bright, clean, aromatic character is reminiscent of the Cantonese cooking of my childhood. Earthy spices, garlic and herbs are given wings in imaginative combinations that delight the eye as well as the palate.

I often create ‘East-West’ dishes and even entire menus by blending my Chinese cuisine with representative Western foods and styles. Both cultures share a commitment to good food, simply made, but a delight to see and to eat. Here I use chicken thighs, as the Chinese prefer to do, and I combine spices and seasonings from the two cuisines.

Unless they are in season and vine-ripened, you are better off using tinned tomatoes. The dish re-heats well, so it can be prepared in advance. It can also be increased, without any decline in quality, to accommodate a larger group of people.

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Ingredients

  • 750 g ( lb) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh root ginger
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 750 g ( lb) tinned tomatoes, with liquid
  • 50 g (2 oz) black Nice olives, stoned
  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) Chicken Stock
  • 20 basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper

For the Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

Cut the chicken into 5-cm (2-in) pieces. In a large bowl, combine the chicken with the soy sauces, Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry, salt and pepper and mix well. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes. Drain the chicken and discard any excess marinade.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over a high heat until it is hot. Add the oil and, when it is very hot, add the chicken and brown on both sides. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to brown for 5 minutes until it is golden brown. Remove the chicken from the wok and drain in a colander. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the oil and fat.

Re-heat the wok, add the garlic, ginger, onion, salt and pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute. Reduce the heat and continue to cook for 3 minutes or until the onion is soft and transparent. Then add the tomatoes, olives and stock. Bring the mixture to a simmer, return the chicken to the wok, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Add the basil leaves, sugar, salt and pepper and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn on to a warm platter and serve at once.

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