Ho, hey, the end of an era and a really good chicken and apricot curry

I’m in denial. An era of joyful communal living with two of my best friends in the world is drawing to a close, and I don’t want to believe it’s true.

Sophie and Laura both got fantastic new jobs recently. While Sophie’s is still at Oxfam, Laura’s is not, so she’s moving to the Big Smoke when our rental contract runs out in September. Meanwhile, I’m packing my bags to return to Istanbul, for at least the rest of the summer if not longer. And I can’t really get my head around any of this.

I can’t dwell on this because it’s going to make me cry, so I thought I’d share two things with you:

  1. A song that we’ve been enjoying a lot lately, which is going to forever remind me of this time (a cover of Ho Hey by The Lumineers):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceYtOlmImNE
  2. A lip-smacking Parsi curry that I first cooked for the girls not long after we moved in to our first house together, which we’ve all come to love.

Chicken and apricot curry

If you’re not a sweet and sour person, you’ll hate this. If you are, try it now. The recipe is dead simple, and turns out delicious every time. Here are my top tips for making it:

  • Use chicken on the bone for the full flavour sensation, or leaner cuts if you must. Both work equally well, but take care not to overcook the meat if you’re not going for bone.
  • Use whole spices – cinnamon and cumin seeds – and fry them good and proper first to release flavours.
  • Add the sugar only at the very end, when you can taste the final product. It’s easy to make this too sweet, especially if you’re using nice juicy apricots, and I love the sour tang from the vinegar.

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Cooking time: 45 mins

Serves 4

What you need:

12-15 dried apricots

950g chicken, preferably on the bone

Salt and pepper for seasoning

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 cinnamon sticks

1 tbsp finely grated ginger

2 onions, thinly sliced

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp salt

Sugar to taste

2 tbsp red wine vinegar (I’ve made this with regular vinegar too, and it just about works)

How to make it:

  1. Season the chicken with the salt and pepper, then set aside.
  2. Place 250ml water in a small saucepan, and add the apricots. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble away on a low heat until the water has started to thicken and the apricots have softened. Set the pan aside (DON’T throw away the water).
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wide pan. Toss in the whole spices as soon as the oil starts to smoke, and stir once. Add the chicken and brown on all sides. If your pan is too small, do this in batches – you need to have only once layer of chicken in the pan. Once browned, transfer to a plate and set aside.
  4. Using the same pan, now fry the onions until they begin to brown. Add the ginger, then the tomato puree and stir together. Once the ginger begins to release its scent, return the chicken to the pan, along with all its juices. Stir to combine, then top up with 300ml water and the salt. Cover and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and let the curry simmer gently for 20 minutes. Make sure to turn the chicken every now and again to ensure it’s cooked through.
  5. Finally, add the sugar, vinegar, apricots and their juices to the pan. Stir and heat over a high flame until well combined. The sauce should be thickened and glossy.
  6. Serve immediately, with rice and a nice green salad.
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