Subtle spice hits
Clever spicing elevates a chicken and chickpea dish and adds warmth to a fruity cake, writes DOMINI KEMP
I LOVE DISHES LIKE this lemon chicken one that initially looked a bit boring, but because of a few well chosen spices, it suddenly turned out to be mega tasty. This is also one of those dishes that a jar of preserved lemons may find a home in, and although in my “recommends” bit on this page I’m suggesting verjus instead of lemon juice, sometimes there is no substitute for the pinched sourness of full-whack acidity. I always recommend lemon juice to combat blandness and also help tone down a dish that tastes over seasoned. Sometimes the flavour you want might be something rounder and gentler, which is where the verjus comes in.
It’s nice to have a few condiments like these in your repertoire to help give that bit of oomph when dinner tastes a little lost. Other contenders for places on my shelf include good old Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, tomato puree, soy sauce, honey or agave syrup, salt, garlic, chilli flakes, sherry vinegar and sweet chilli sauce – all to be used in moderation, depending on the dish. Lots of spices and dried herbs, as well as plenty of Maldon sea salt and black pepper leave my larder complete, notwithstanding Parmesan cheese, butter and good olive oil. There’s not a whole lot that can’t be fixed with a little help from the above list.
This chicken and chickpea dinner can be whipped up in a jiffy and adding greens can also mean a bag of rocket or some Swiss chard, rather than just baby spinach. It’s that iron-type green and astringent flavour you’re after that will help balance out the chickpeas and the warm spices.
When tasting it initially, we also felt that you could happily leave this vegetarian by removing the chicken and sauteing some mushrooms or hunks of sweet potato instead, and using some vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
The pineapple and banana cake is a bit of fun and very easy to make. Obviously the riper the bananas, the better the flavour. I always forget to freeze over-ripe bananas, but they are fine to freeze in a plastic container, either peeled or unpeeled depending on how you want to use them eventually.
A recipe like this would be fine with unpeeled ones as you would need them to thaw out fully, then peel before using. But freezing peeled bananas in plastic freezer bags is very handy if you’re making smoothies or anything similar, as you can just plop them straight in and whizz up your concoction .
Lemon spiced chicken with chickpeas
Good glug of olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
4 skinless chicken breasts, diced into bite-sized chunks
Salt and pepper