Persian Chicken with Apricots, Almonds and Saffron

As you grow older, more and more of your life becomes history. When I first visited Iran it was still known as Persia and, apart from an incredible feast of large, pale-grey, glistening caviar to which we were treated one evening, my most vivid memories of the food are the combination of chicken or meat with fruit and the ethereal quality of the rice. I still try to recapture those tastes, as in this recipe, which goes perfectly with basmati rice.


  • 600 ml/1 pint chicken stock
  • 10-12 strands saffron
  • 1 very large onion
  • 25 g/1 oz butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 chicken breast joints on the bone
  • 100 g/4 oz dried apricots, halved
  • 25 g/1 oz sultanas
  • 50 g/2 oz whole almonds, unskinned
  • salt
  • black pepper


Bring the stock to the boil in a pan, stir in the saffron and leave on one side. Peel the onion and chop into small pieces. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy, flameproof casserole over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until soft, stirring now and then. Stir in the cinnamon and then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the onion to a plate and leave on one side. Increase the heat under the casserole slightly and add the chicken joints. Fry on each side just to brown. Return the onion to the casserole dish together with the apricots, sultanas and almonds. Sprinkle with black pepper. Give the stock and saffron a good stir and pour into the casserole. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer very gently for 40-50 minutes, until the chicken is really tender. Before serving, season to taste with salt and black pepper.