Prep time: 30 minutes
About this recipe
This recipe is inspired by the story of my Leiths practical exam, “I’ve set the chicken on fire. Do you want me to go?” Although I haven’t eaten tarragon chicken since that day, I have found that a gentle aniseed flavour adds something very special to this Greek-Cypriot dish, which was one of my childhood favourites. The tender green beans are the star and their most shiny attribute is their convenience, as they are used straight from the freezer. Traditonally, parsley would be the herb of choice, but substituting tarragon pays homage both the Leiths dish and also gives the sense of a sweet lacing with ouzo – if you wanted to you could add a dash before the first simmer. As with the recipe for Mum Bolognese, the richness of passata doesn’t go here; blitzed tinned tomatoes are more watery and this gives a refreshing sweetness. Please do not worry about exact amounts; as with any stew, it’s all about approximations and this especially goes for the tarragon – a few extra leaves certainly won’t hurt this robust stew.
- 1.8 kilogram chicken, jointed into 8 pieces
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 x 400g and 1 x 230g tins of plum tomatoes (keep the empty big tin handy)
- 1 small bunch of tarragon, roughly chopped (a supermarket 20g is fine. Save a generous tablespoon for serving)
- 1 kilogram of frozen fine green beans
- 1 kilogram of potatoes
- 2 teaspoons of salt (plus more for sprinkling and to taste)
- Freshly ground black pepper for sprinkling and to taste
- Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan large enough to house the whole chicken (you’ll cook the entire stew in the pan) over a medium heat. Sprinkle the chicken pieces lightly with salt and pepper and add them to the pan skin side down in a single layer – you’ll most likely need to do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Brown each chicken piece for about 5 minutes on each side, until the skin is golden and crisp, then remove and set aside.
- In the same saucepan (no need to wash it out first), heat the remaining oil and add the onion. Sweat the little pieces for a few minutes until soft.
- Pour in the blitzed tomatoes and the tarragon. Swill out 400g tomato tin with water from a recently boiled kettle and pour into the saucepan too – do this twice.
- Add the chicken pieces. Now, the liquid needs to cover all of the chicken, so if it doesn’t at this point, add another tin’s worth of water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Put the lid on the pan, turn down the heat to medium-low so that it’s simmering steadily and assertively and reduce the stew for 20 minutes.
- In the meantime, peel and cut the potatoes into medium, uniformed-sized chunks.
- Return to the stew and add the frozen fine green beans, season with the two teaspoons of salt and give it stir to make sure it’s all combined. Again, keep an eye on the liquid levels and if necessary, top up that water again to ensure the chicken remains covered. Bring to a boil, re-lid, turn down the heat and reduce again for 20 minutes.
- Add the potatoes and check the seasoning. For the last time, reduce again for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and a knife can easily pass through.
- Just before serving sprinkle the remaining chopped tarragon over the stew for a hit of fragrant liquorice sweetness.