Hot Sweet and Sour Chicken with Apricots
This is one of my husband’s all-time favourite dishes. I tend to serve it with plain basmati rice or rice with peas, and roasted cauliflower goes well on the side
- 8 smallish skinless chicken thighs, weighing about 1.3kg
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 24 dried apricot halves (use the orange-coloured Californian or Turkish varieties)
- 500ml water
- 9 tbsp sugar
- 110ml red wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- ¼ tsp cumin seeds
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
- 5 x 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated to a pulp
- 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated or crushed to a pulp
- ½–1 tsp cayenne pepper, or Kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
- 1 tsp homemade
- Garam masala
Spread the chicken out in front of you and dust evenly on both sides with one and a half teaspoons salt and lots of black pepper. Set aside, in the refrigerator if necessary, though remove from the refrigerator when you start cooking.
In a small pan, soak the apricots in half the measured water for five minutes. Then add seven tablespoons of the sugar, 75ml of the vinegar and one teaspoon salt. Stir and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 8 minutes for Californian apricots, or perhaps a bit more for the Turkish variety. Take off the heat. Leave the apricots in their liquid and set the pan aside.
Put the oil in a 28–30cm non-stick sauté pan or frying pan and set over a medium-high heat. When hot, put in four pieces of chicken at a time and brown lightly on both sides. Remove to a plate as they get done.
Put the cumin seeds in the same pan and immediately follow with the onion, so the cumin does not burn. Cook over a medium heat, stirring all the time, until the onion turns soft and brown at the edges. Reduce the heat a bit and add the grated ginger and garlic. Stir and fry it all for two to three minutes. Now reduce the heat to low and add the cayenne and coriander. Stir once or twice, then return the chicken and all its juices. Pour in the remaining 250ml measured water, the remaining sugar and vinegar and half teaspoon salt. Mix gently and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Lift the cover and turn over the chicken pieces. Increase the heat to medium. Put the cover back on, but leave it slightly ajar. Boil away much of the liquid. You should be left with about a 5mm layer of thick liquid at the end of another 15 minutes or so of cooking. Remove the lid. Reduce the heat to low. Sprinkle in the garam masala. Stir gently to mix.
Now pour in all the liquid from the pot of apricots and mix it in. Taste for salt. You might wish to add more. Lay the apricots over the top of the chicken, then tuck them one at a time, gently without damaging them, into the sauce between the chicken pieces. Turn off the heat and serve.