It’s a sign of getting older when wandering around supermarket aisles aimlessly gives your heart joy. Little things, I suppose. The aisles of Waitrose yielded exotic pomegranate molasses and yuzu, and determined not to let them languish in the cupboard, I looked up ways to use them in dishes. Of all store cupboard ingredients, five spice is apparently the most underused in our kitchens. There’s a famous skit by Michael McIntyre about this which had me in stitches the first time I watched it.
I settled on reliable Ottolenghi with this cosy, comforting dish of oven-baked chicken coated with rich sauce and sweet onions. I fully vouch for its tastiness and ease of making. The original recipe calls for Charlotte potatoes as well but I left them out to go carb-free. For the life of me I couldn’t find fresh oregano anywhere except a whole plant in a pot which would have gone to waste so I resorted to dried oregano instead. I also halved the recipe to make the portions more manageable. It makes a lovely main course for a family dinner and also a great lunch for work. I put in a large handful of spinach (or any greens) at the bottom of my lunch container and whizz it in the microwave for a few minutes for a delicious midday break.
Chicken with prunes and pomegranate molasses
4 chicken drumsticks and 4 thighs, skinned (about 1kg in total)
2 large onions, peeled and quartered or a handful of shallots left whole
60g pitted prunes
15g grated fresh ginger
40ml soy sauce
45ml pomegranate molasses
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
60g sweet mango chutney
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
10g oregano sprigs or 2 tsps dried oregano
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, then tip into a large casserole dish. Cover with a lid (or thick foil), and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, and cook for two hours longer. Every now and then baste the chicken with the juices and turn them over to get an even brown colour.
When the time is up, remove the dish from the oven, baste the chicken again, cover and set aside to rest and allow the flavours to mingle.
Serve with couscous and a fresh crisp salad to balance the richness of the sauce. Or, with wilted greens for a lighter meal.