Paprika Chicken with Marinated Cucumber

Paprika is the key to this dish. Try to buy only as much as you need and don’t keep opened packets of paprika for weeks as it loses flavour quickly and then has no more subtlety than brick dust.

In Hungary it is sold in four grades ranging in strength from quite mild rose paprika to the quite hot. As paprika available here is usually mild I have added a chilli to the ingredients. Creamy sauces need enlivening.

Paprika should fry for a few seconds, but mustn’t burn or it will turn bitter. This is best accomplished by removing the pan from direct heat and then adding it. Added any other way paprika will taste uncooked – like a Frenchman’s curry. You may then boil it forever without achieving the warmth and spiciness of the properly used product.

The cucumber salad which finishes the sauce also makes a good side dish with any braised meat or a rich stew and keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

Pilaff rice is ideal to serve with this dish for there is plenty of sauce to mop up. In Hungary you would probably be offered galuska, an eastern European spaetzle made by rubbing thickish batter through a colander into boiling water. However this is not the moment for such touches of authenticity. Concentrate on the paprika chicken with marinated cucumber.

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Ingredients

  • 1 × 4 lb (1.75 kg) chicken
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon groundnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 small chilli, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tomato purée
  • 1 large red pepper, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot
  • 5 fl oz (150 ml) cr è me fraîche

Cucumber salad

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method

The cucumber salad

  1. Peel and thinly slice the cucumber. Sprinkle the salt over the slices. You will now need to press the cucumber, and the easiest method is to place an upturned plate over it, put a 2 lb (900 g) weight on top, and then leave for 1 hour. Remove the weight and squeeze as much liquid as you can from the cucumber.
  2. Dissolve the sugar and vinegar together with a few turns of the pepper mill. Add the cucumber and refrigerate until needed.

The chicken

  • In a pot large enough to hold the chicken, fry the onion in the oil until brown. Add the paprika, then the chopped chilli and tomato purée. Allow these to fry for a few seconds then pour on a pint (600 ml) of water. Bring to the boil and then add the chicken and red pepper.
  • Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Lower the heat so that the chicken is gently poached for 40 minutes, by which time it should be perfectly cooked. Lift it out.
  • Thicken the paprika stock with the arrowroot diluted in a little cold water. Add the cr è me fraîche, re-boil, and then strain into a clean saucepan.

To Complete

  • Carve the chicken into eight pieces; the two legs and breasts each divided into two. Return these pieces to the paprika sauce.
  • Lift the cucumber salad from its marinade and add this to the sauce.
  • Serve each person a piece of leg and breast and plenty of sauce.
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