Spiced Chicken with Chickpeas and Lemon Peel

This chicken casserole is aromatic with spices evocative of both India and North Africa, two of my favourite places and cuisines. Serve with a crisp green vegetable or a salad. If you cook this for part of the time early in the day and then complete the cooking later on it seems to taste even better.

Ingredients

  • 225 g/8 oz dried chickpeas
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 100 g/4 oz mushrooms
  • 675-900 g/1½-2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 75 g/3 oz butter
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 lemon
  • 5 cm/2 in piece fresh ginger
  • 600 ml/1 pint chicken stock
  • cayenne pepper
  • generous handful fresh coriander or parsley leaves
  • salt

Method

Soak the chickpeas in water overnight. Drain and boil in plenty of water until soft. This can take anything from 45 minutes to 1½ hours, depending on the age of the chickpeas. Drain well. Meanwhile, peel the onions and garlic, put them into a food processor with the mushrooms and whizz until chopped as finely as possible.

Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/gas mark 1. Cut the chicken thighs in half. Melt the butter in a large, flameproof casserole dish over a fairly high heat. Add the cinnamon, paprika and turmeric and stir around once or twice before adding the onion mixture from the food processor. Stir around for a minute or two, then add the chicken thighs and the drained chickpeas and remove from the heat. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze out the juice into the casserole. Then scrape as much pith as possible from the lemon peel and cut the peel into small pieces. Peel the ginger and slice finely. Mix the lemon peel and ginger slices into the casserole. Lastly, pour over the chicken stock.

Cover the casserole dish, put it back on the stove over a high heat and bring up to simmering point. Then transfer to the oven and cook for 2½ hours, until all the ingredients are meltingly tender. Season to taste with cayenne pepper and salt. Just before serving, slice the coriander or parsley leaves roughly and scatter into the casserole.

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