Sticky chicken & veg

GLUTEN FREE (ONLY IF WHEAT FREE TAMARI IS USED)

SERVES 4 - 5 ADULTS

Everyone has a basic chicken dinner, Nigella's Praised Chicken for example, this is mine. I've been making this for years as a faithful standby for a delicious and quick dinner. The quantities of vegetables are very flexible. You can add more or less as desired, and use vegetables that are in season - cherry tomatoes added whole would be a wonderful addition in summer. It is much cheaper to use a whole chicken and cut the pieces yourself, plus you get a carcass for stock. This is best made in a cast iron (enamel coated or not) pot.

4 - 5 generous sprigs fresh thyme - lemon thyme is lovely generous pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 chicken 1.5 - 2 kg 2 tablespoons olive oil 7 shallots, peeled or one large onion, peeled and roughly sliced lengthways 4 - 5 garlic, peeled and left whole 3 medium carrots or smaller to equal/ 195gm 300 gm Jap or Butternut pumpkin, peeled 4 - 5 baby potatoes / 250 gm, or larger to equal, well scrubbed 3 tablespoons mirin 1 tablespoon tamari 2 tablespoons water or stock 1/2 cup green vegetables per person - good choices include
* Beans topped and tailed and cut into 5 cm lengths
* Broad beans - peeled and removed from their skin
* Peas 1 piece of ginger approx 3 thick - finely grated

Take the leaves from the thyme and place on a baking tray or flat plate with the salt and pepper.

Prepare your vegetables: If the carrots are small, leave them as is. If larger, cut into 5 cm lengths; if very fat, cut the lengths in half so you have 2 x 5cm long pieces. Cut the pumpkin into similar sizes; if using Jap make them a little bigger. Cut any eyes from the potatoes and if large, cut them into large chunks approx 4 - 5 cm. Set aside.

Cut the thigh and leg from the body in one piece, the two wings and finally the breasts. You will have 6 pieces. Cut and separate the thigh and leg - you now have 8 pieces of chicken. Reserve the carcass for stock. Place these skin side down on the baking tray and press into the mixture making sure all herb mix is used.

PRE HEAT OVEN TO 165C.

Add the oil to a 26cm cast iron stew-pot and heat. The oil should be hot, but not at all rippling or smoking. Add the meat skin side down onto the oil - it should sizzle and may spit a little. Continue to cook until the skin is golden (approx 5 minutes). Try to leave it alone for this time as lifting it too early before the skin is golden can tear it. Remove the thigh and breasts when golden and place on a plate, and turn the wings and legs to brown the other side. When ready, remove and add to the other pieces. As spaces become available in the pot, add the shallots and garlic.

Add the carrots, pumpkin and potato and cook for 5 mins at a medium heat. Return the browned chicken pieces and any juice to the pot. Add 1 tablespoon mirin, tamari and water or stock; it will sizzle and begin to reduce. Turn off the heat, cover and place in oven for 35 - 40 mins, or until the vegetables are just cooked through. Add choice of green vegetables 10 minutes before the end of cooking time.

Remove from the oven. Take out the vegetables and chicken breasts and place in a bowl by the stove to keep warm. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons mirin and squeeze the grated ginger and let the juice drip into the pot. Discard the pulp. Place over a high heat for the juices to caramelise and reduce until you have a thick sauce. As the juices begin to reduce, lower the heat so you can caramelise the chicken as much as possible, without losing too much sauce - approx 10 minutes. Cut the chicken breasts into smaller portions and return these, and the vegetables to the pan (this will also add a little more liquid), and serve. Shred the chicken and discard the bones before serving to young toddlers.

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