Aromatic Chicken on a Mattress

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In this aromatic dish joints of chicken are cooked on top of the purée (or mattress) of apples, onion, garlic and chicory mixed with bulgar, also called cracked wheat. The mixture produces a wonderful combination of contrasting flavours and textures, and the ‘mattress’ is made even tastier by the juices of the chicken which run into it as it cooks. Serve with a crisp green vegetable such as broccoli, and with sautéed potatoes or a bowl of buttered noodles.

Ingredients

  • 75 g (3 oz) bulgar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 5–6 whole allspice berries
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped roughly
  • 2.5 cm (1 in) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 4 large dessert apples, unpeeled, cored and sliced fairly thinly
  • 4 heads chicory, sliced
  • 6 chicken joints, such as breasts, drumsticks or thighs
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons natural yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped finely
  • 25 g (1 oz) pine kernels or split almonds
  • Salt and black pepper

Method

Put the bulgar in a bowl, cover with plenty of cold water and leave to soak for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan over a medium heat. Add the sliced onion and stir for 1-2 minutes, then add the allspice berries, garlic and ginger, apples and chicory. Cook, stirring often, for 10–20 minutes or until the apples and onions are soft but not browned. Sprinkle with a little black pepper and salt.

Spoon the mixture into a food processor, picking out the whole allspice as you do so. Whizz until smooth, then check the seasoning again – the purée should be strongly seasoned as it is to be mixed with the bland-tasting bulgar.

Drain the bulgar, squeezing out the excess water with your hand, then stir it into the purée. Spoon the mixture into a large, wide ovenproof casserole and spread level.

Rub each of the chicken joints with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

Arrange the joints on top of the mattress of the purée and bulgar, then cover the dish and cook in the centre of a preheated oven, 190°C, 375°F, Gas Mark 5 for 1 hour. Remove the casserole from the oven and increase the temperature to 240°C, 475°F, Gas Mark 9.

Put the yogurt in a bowl and mix in the garlic. Using a pastry brush apply this mixture thickly over the chicken joints. Scatter the pine kernels or split almonds on top all over.

Return the uncovered casserole back to the oven at the very top for 10-20 minutes until the joints are tinged with brown. Remove from the oven and serve straight from the casserole or on individual plates.

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