Sweet and Sour Chicken
The term “sweet and sour” brings forward all kinds of unhelpful connotations. The majority of people will automatically assume that you mean the sticky, sickly sweet Chinese takeaway version that seemed to be everybody’s favourite Friday night treat ten years ago. With this in mind, I decided to use the Italian name, agrodolce, on the menu for the Kinneagh Kitchen Pop-Up Italian at Ubh a couple of weeks ago. Sweet and Sour makes up a huge part of Italian cooking – much more than you would be led to believe looking at a menu in most Italian restaurants in Ireland. Sicily in particular cherishes the balance of sour vinegar or citrus with sweet honey or sugar. Almost anything can be cooked in an agrodolce sauce and even if you don’t cook in it – you can top all manner of things with a salsa verde agrodolce (recipe coming soon).
This dish is an amalgamation of a couple of different recipes. First I cooked Jamie Oliver’s Sweet and Sour Rabbit recipe and although I enjoyed it, it was missing something. I researched more agrodolce recipes and quite liked the sound of Claudia Roden’s Sicilian Sweet and Sour Rabbit recipe. I took what I liked from both, tweaked, swapped the rabbit for chicken and eventually settled on this. It’s important to ensure that the sauce is seasoned correctly – the balance of sweet (honey), sour (balsamic), heat (chilli) and salty (salt) is of utmost importance. The sweet, sour and heat should take care of itself but the salt is up to you! Feel free to use boneless, skinless free range chicken thighs instead of the whole chicken – two per person should suffice.
3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Onion (finely sliced)
3 Bay Leaves
sprig of Thyme
1 Small Free-Range Chicken (cut into 8 pieces and skin removed)
2 tbsp Flour
150ml Red Wine (Nero D’Avola or Primitivo preferable)
1 Chilli (halved, seeds removed and discarded)
2 tbsp Almonds
2 tbsp Pine Nuts
1 tbsp Raisins
100ml Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp Honey
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Roast Potatoes and Vegetables of your choice to serve
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion, bay and thyme and season generously with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes stirring often, until the onions are soft but not coloured.
Meanwhile coat the chicken pieces in flour before adding to the pan. Turn the heat up to medium and allow the chicken to cook for 5 minutes before adding the wine, clove, chilli, nuts and raisins. Bring to the boil, season, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the balsamic vinegar and bring back to a simmer for a further 10 minutes. Add the honey, stir and cook for a further 5 minutes. Check for seasoning.
Serve with roast potatoes and vegetables of your choice. Have bread on hand to mop up the juices.