Cooking up a storm: We put six celeb chefs under fire

Six celeb chefs — 12 questions. Lily Higgins, Trish Deseine (recent winner at the prestigious Gourmand Awards), Yotam Ottolenghi and others reveal their dream dinner party guests, memorable meals — and their favourite recipes to create the perfect summer menu to Joe McNamee.

Cooking up a storm: We put six celeb chefs under fire

Lilly Higgins

Lilly is a food writer, photographer and chef. She appears regularly on television including presenting Ireland’s Best Young Baker (RTÉ) and her latest book is Dream Deli (Gill & MacMillan)

WHAT was the first dish you ever cooked? Porridge in the morning, my dad is obsessed with porridge, soaked overnight, we all loved it except one of my sisters who hated it.

What was your most memorable meal? The whole family went to Vietnam and Thailand for my 18th birthday — my sister was in college in Thailand at the time — and we were on the Mekong Delta in a sail boat and had a huge seafood meal. It was all food I wasn’t used to: whole crabs, elephant ear fish, which was really crispy, really simple fish cooked well, with fish sauce and chilli and an explosion of herbs, coriander and mint. We ate it just sitting on the ground in the boat and the flavours were just amazing.

Chicken — cheap or free-range or organic? I get East Ferry local or Dan Ahern’s organic.

Does the global food crisis concern you — why and is there anything we can do about it? It does concern me. My sister, Ettie, is deputy rep for UNICEF in South Sudan, where there is a massive food shortage, 740,000 children under the age of five at high risk of food insecurity and 50,000 may die of malnutrition this year. Her daily job is distribution of food and it’s a real life and death situation. I am in touch with her most days and it is really grounding. Here we can buy everything we want but it makes me more conscious of food waste and the choices of food I make for my kids and how I rear them.

How do you eat well on a low income? Know what is in season, because food is cheapest then. Use food well and don’t have any waste — if I buy a chicken, I use the whole chicken, including making stock. Before I go shopping the fridge is completely empty, I use every single thing before going off to buy more.

Is there such a thing as an Irish cuisine? I think it is food that grows well here, amazing beef and lamb, salmon and mackerel, root vegetables, apples, blackberries and honey, amazing dairy and cheese. So, dishes that put together those ingredients are what comprises our cuisine now.

What is your favourite Irish dish? An apple tart or a really good stew with mash, something simple like that.

What is your favourite Irish ingredient? I’m not big into meat but our cream butter, farmhouse cheeses, no one in elase in the world does dairy like us, especially cheeses, I love Coolea and the ‘Irish compté’, Fermoy Natural Cheese Company’s St Gall, Orchard Dairy goats cheese and Ardsallagh goat’s cheese.

What is your favourite Irish restaurant (or world restaurant, if you like)? The Farmgate in Midleton is just beautiful, the quality of ingredients is incredible, and the surroundings are lovely. I also love the Black Pig in Kinsale.

What’s your favourite comfort food? Colcannon, a big buttery bowl of colcannon or scallion mash.

Which five guests would you invite to your ideal dinner party, excluding family or friends? Darina Allen, Yotam Ottolenghi, (food writer) David Prior, Nigel Slater and Domini Kemp.

What would you choose as your final meal? Loads of different things you can pick at: a great seafood platter, loads of cheese, gorgeous wine and lots of Arbutus bread.

Crêpes with Berries

Serves 6

300g plain flour

1 tsp sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

480ml milk

1 tbsp [1] butter, melted[2]

Sunflower oil

350g mixed berries

Icing sugar, to dust

Sift the flour and sugar into a bowl, then make a well in the centre.

Whisk the eggs and milk together with 2½ tablespoons water. Slowly pour into the well in the dry ingredients, whisking all the time to ensure a smooth batter. Stir in the melted butter. Cover and place in the fridge to rest for 20–30 minutes.

Heat a crêpe pan or non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and coat lightly with sunflower oil.

Pour in enough batter to form a thin coat on the base of the pan. Cook for 1 minute, or until the crêpe comes away from the side of the pan.

Flip over and cook until golden on the other side.

Repeat the process with the remaining batter.

Stack the crêpes on a plate with a little greaseproof paper or icing sugar between each one. Cover with tin foil.

To serve, gently roll the crêpe into an upturned cone shape, fill with berries and place on a plate.

Dust lightly with icing sugar and serve immediately.

Martin Shanahan

Martin owns the renowned Fishy Fishy restaurant in Kinsale. He’s the Munster Mentor for a new RTÉ One series The Taste of Success

WHAT was the first dish you ever cooked? It was beans on toast when I was 10 or 11. I came home from school and there was nothing in the fridge. I’m fairly sure I burnt the toast!

What was your most memorable meal? I worked as a chef in San Francisco over twenty years ago and I paid a return visit there around the year 2000. I had an incredible meal in The Boulevard which is owned by Nancy Oakes, a famous American chef. A good friend of mine was second in command and he gave me a tour of the kitchens. The location of the restaurant is right beside the Bay Bridge and it was very memorable. I had Scallops with Pork Belly and it was delicious. They were already into food provenance and everything on the menu had been sourced locally.

Chicken — cheap or free-range or organic? I always go for free range.

Does the global food crisis concern you — why and is there anything we can do about it? It does concern me. Food is a shipping commodity. I can never understand why we’re shipping out all our best products and importing inferior products. There’s no reason why we should be eating chicken from Thailand or prawns from New Zealand. We need to educate the customer and make sure they insist on local. Waste is something that really bothers me. And I’m always struck by all the packaging surrounding food.

How do you eat well on a low income? Fresh fruit and veg can go a long way and cheaper cuts of meat, especially offal are great. And of course the cheapest and to my mind the most wonderful fish is mackerel. And you can actually go outside your front door and catch one for free!

Is there such a thing as an Irish cuisine? The last 10 to 15 years have seen the rise of an Irish cuisine. All you have to do is look at chefs like Ross Lewis in Chapter One and Derry Clarke in L’Ecrivain and see how they’re developing Irish cuisine. Avoca and Fallon & Byrne are doing great things for Irish Food. I also think Matt the Thresher in Pembroke Street and Peter Caviston in Glasthule in Dublin are so proud of their food’s Irish provenance.

What is your favourite Irish dish? It has to be Irish Stew. I was at the World Sheep Shearing Championships in Wexford a few weeks ago and I had a delicious Irish stew in Kellys Hotel in Rosslare. When it’s done right, you just can’t beat it.

What is your favourite Irish ingredient? Fish of course, especially shellfish. Fresh crab claws are right up there. Get them from your local fishmonger, make a homemade mayonnaise and have them with a glass of wine on the deck.

What is your favourite Irish restaurant (or world restaurant, if you like)? Honestly, at this stage there are too many to pinpoint. I’m with the Restaurants Association of Ireland which has over a thousand members and they’re great at getting us all together. We were all at the recent Literary Festival at Ballymaloe and it really made me realise the strength of Irish cuisine.

What’s your favourite comfort food? Fish and Chips — haddock, hake or cod in breadcrumbs or batter. I really think it’s on its way to becoming Ireland’s national dish because I’m seeing it everywhere.

Which five guests would you invite to your ideal dinner party, excluding family or friends? Rick Stein for the food, Andrea Boccelli would provide the singing and I’d invite Angela Merkel to see could I put a smile on her face! Tiger Woods because I’m a huge golfing fan and finally JP McManus because next to food, horses are my big passion and I think he’s a great ambassador for Ireland.

What would you choose as your final meal? Half a dozen Oysterhaven oysters, a plate of whole prawns in garlic and chilli, John Dory and the biggest Fruit de Mer platter. I’d make sure my final meal went on forever!

RTÉ One’s The Taste of Success will see the winner getting their food product on the shelves of 140 Lidl Ireland supermarkets, plus a prize worth €100,000. Application forms are on and the closing date is Wednesday June 11.

Asian Monkfish

Serves 4

200g of fish per person

Ask the fish monger to cut the monk fish at an angle so you get two to three pieces per person

Don’t forget to ask him to remove the first and second vest.

You could also use Mackerel, Hake or Cod as an alternative to Monk Fish at this time of year.

Asian butter sauce:

125g butter

2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

2½cm fresh ginger, cut into julienned silvers

2 spring onions, shredded

A sprig of coriander, roughly chopped

Melt the butter and add the ginger and sweet chilli sauce and warm through for two minutes. Keep warm until the fish is ready then add the chopped coriander and the spring onions and stir to mix through just before you serve.

Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam is an Israeli-born chef, cookery writer and owner of the renowned London restaurant, Ottolenghi. His latest book is ‘Jerusalem’ co-authored with Sami Tamimi (Ebury Press)

WHAT was the first dish you ever cooked? The Jewish equivalent of pigs in blanket [a miniature sausage roll] named in my children’s cookery book, Moses in basket. I am not kidding you. The sausage was chicken.

What was your most memorable meal? Hainanese chicken rice from a stall in a hawker centre somewhere in Penang, Malaysia. Simple cooking, artistry.

Chicken — cheap or free-range or organic? Never cheap, sometimes organic, always free-range.

Does the global food crisis concern you — why, and is there anything we can do about it? Big question! Anyone working in the food industry is going to be concerned and, yes, there is lots we can do about it. Waste less, save more, be more conscious about the decisions we are all taking.

How do you eat well on a low income? Onions, garlic, oil, tinned tomatoes, a can of smoked oysters and some spaghetti is a good place to start. Focus on grains and pulses and buy fruit and vegetables from a greengrocer. And read the blog and books of Jack Monroe.

Is there such a thing as an Irish cuisine? After Ballymaloe Litfest, I can’t remember the last time I was exposed to such passion from individual producers of amazing quality local products: smoked fish, cheese, seaweed. It’s on this local level that the bigger question of an Irish cuisine is going to be kept alive and keep moving forward: expanding and experimenting and yet staying close to some pretty strong roots.

What is your favourite Irish dish? I love seaweed — it’s gone into a fair number of recent salads in the test kitchen — and we source a lot from the West coast of Ireland. I also had some delicious boxty at the festival — anything involving potatoes and frying is generally a winner in my book.

What is your favourite Irish ingredient? Steel-cut Irish oats, butter, oysters, Coolea cheese ... a lot to choose from!

What is your favourite Irish restaurant? Having enjoyed their hospitality over the festival, it would be very churlish not to point out that breakfast at the Ballymaloe hotel is incredibly hard to beat. That bread!

What’s your favourite comfort food? Noodles or dumplings: anything a bit broth-y and a bit pasta-y hits the spot. Or lentils and fried onions.

Which five guests would you invite to your ideal dinner party? After this weekend I’d be keen to talk more to Rene Redzepi, Joanna Blythman, Tom Parker Bowles, Maggie Beer and Simon Hopkinson. Great food-loving folk.

What would you choose as your final meal? Mum’s tomato soup followed by [partner] Karl’s lasagne. Along with a bottle of red wine and a chunk of dark chocolate, please.

Na’ama’s Fattoush

Serves 6

200g Greek yoghurt and 200ml full-fat milk or 400ml of buttermilk (replacing both yoghurt and milk)

2 large stale Turkish flatbread or naan (250g in total)

3 large tomatoes (380g in total), cut into 1.5cmdice

100g radishes, thinly sliced

3 Lebanese or mini cucumbers (250g in total), peeled and chopped into 1.5cm dice

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

15g mint

25g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1 tbsp dried mint

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 tbsp lemon juice

60ml olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

2 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar

¾ tsp coarsely ground black pepper

1½ tsp salt

1 tbsp sumac or more, according to taste, to garnish

There are plenty of unique variations on the chopped salad, but one of the most popular is Fattoush, an Arab salad that uses grilled or fried leftover pita. She called it fattoush, which is only true to the extent that it includes chopped vegetables and bread.

Try to get small cucumbers for this as for any other fresh salad. You could skip the fermentation stage and use buttermilk instead of the combination of milk and yoghurt.

If using yoghurt and milk, start at least three hours and up to a day in advance by placing both in a bowl. Whisk well and leave in a cool place or in the fridge until bubbles form on the surface. What you get is a kind of home-made buttermilk, but less sour.

Tear the bread into bite-size pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add your fermented yoghurt mixture or commercial buttermilk, followed by the rest of the ingredients, mix well and leave for 10 minutes for all the flavours to combine.

Spoon the fattoush into serving bowls, drizzle with some olive oil and garnish generously with sumac.

Trish Deseine

Trish is an Irish cookbook author and restaurant reviewer based in France where she has sold over 1million books to date. Her latest, The Paris Gourmet (Flammarion) has just won 1st prize at the Gourmand World Book Awards, her second time winning this award. Trish’s Paris Kitchen, Trish’s Country Kitchen & Trish’s Mediterranean Kitchen have all been broadcast on RTE, BBC and the Good Food Channe

WHAT was the first dish you ever cooked? Crème caramel, for one of my parents’ dinner parties dessert, and date sandwiches, chopped dates in bread, I was forced into making in huge amounts of them for fundraising whist drives.

What was your most memorable meal? Both were meals with my kids. One, a couple of years ago over Christmas in London. We missed going back home and I had told Richard Corrigan I was in town. He brought us in to his restaurant, scooped us up, whisked us in to the dining room and all these dishes came out of the kitchen. He gave the boys champagne, oysters, Hedderman smoked salmon, foie gras, brioche, cranberries —the look on my kids’ faces was incredible, it was as if they were starving. There was a touch of Babettes Feast about it. My kids are not fussy but it was quite sophisticated even for them as French kids. It made our day. Another time, I took them to Noma back in 2005, just me and four very small kids. The cooking was like an earthquake to me, I could see what it was like eating the décor around me, the shapes, textures, tastes. It was mind and palate blowing yet so delicious. It was difficult as well because the kids weren’t quite in their comfort zone and by the end of lunch were a bit fidgety but the staff were brilliant with them. Of course, my kids are now massively proud they went there.

Chicken — cheap or free-range or organic? I’m very lucky ‘cos even the cheapest cheap in France is a decent bird. Chicken is taken much more seriously there. Always free range, not always organic, but whatever chicken I buy, I’m going to be paying about €15.

Does the global food crisis concern you — why and is there anything we can do about it? Of course it does, and it angers me at some of the claims being made by certain people in my end of the business in terms of what can be done about it. A lot of the food revolution has been hijacked by individuals making lots of money out of swirling around in an elite and preaching from on high and I don’t know that the message has really managed to break out of that elite. One of the messages is you should learn to cook, but those who need it are not asking for it. What they need is encouragement and peer-to-peer teaching, not the usual preaching/teaching down from on high, as if dealing with a classroom full of kids. That doesn’t work with a mother, aged 30. But there is progress: a Jack Monroe (A Girl Called Jack), and Caitriona Redmond (Wholesome Ireland) are very interesting characters, involved in social work and the community as well as in food. One would hope more profiles like that would emerge and that their cookbooks get the attention. The supermarkets are a horrendous jungle and it is good to help people to shop, to learn to read labels properly.

How do you eat well on a low income? You learn how to cook. You don’t need 50 recipes or a whole load of different cuisines like Middle Eastern or Italian. Just ten or 15 basic recipes: how to roast, a good soup and so on. And don’t feel bad about not cooking all of the time. Keep in mind the importance of buying well and shopping well, assembling well, a lot of raw fruit and veg.

Is there such a thing as an Irish cuisine? There’s the one that exists at the moment, which is very good and where we’re getting nostalgic and romantic and celebrating tradition, Donal Skehan on the recipes of Theodora Fitzgibbon, Darina and Ballymaloe. It is a mixture of very basic regional dishes and ‘Big House’ cooking — very British, as you know, and with a very big spotlight on the great produce. What I’m really excited is the new cuisine, led by Enda McEvoy [former Michelin-starred chef with Aniar, Galway, opening his own restaurant, Loam, in August]. It is a new language, so with an army of Endas, maybe in ten years we’ll really have something uniquely Irish. It’s going to take a few years yet but it will be brilliant when it comes.

What is your favourite Irish dish? Chocolate Guinness Cake in Nancys Bar, in Ardara, Co Donegal.

What is your favourite Irish ingredient? Butter.

What is your favourite Irish restaurant (or world restaurant, if you like)? Ox, in Belfast, at the moment.

What’s your favourite comfort food? Mashed potatoes and butter

Which five guests would you invite to your ideal dinner party, excluding family or friends? Dylan Moran, Kevin Costner (without his guitar) Nora Ephron, Meryl Streep and Benjamin Biolay (with his guitar.)

What would you choose as your final meal? Roast chicken mashed potatoes and opera chocolate cake.

Frisée Aux Lardons (bacon and poached egg salad)

Serves 4

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp wine vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

250g lardon or a slice of poitrine fumée (thick cut smoked bacon) cut into 2cm lardons

4 eggs

1 frisée salad, washed, spun, leaves detached and torn into manageable pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make vinaigrette by combining the oil, vinegar and mustard. Season lightly as the poitrine is very salty.

Fry the poitrine in a pan until golden and crispy. No need to add butter or oil! Meanwhile lightly poach the eggs.

Put the prepared frisée in a salad bowl and toss it with the dressing. Sprinkle on the lardons (avoid pouring in the fat from the pan!) and serve, setting the eggs on top.

Kevin Aherne

Kevin is an award-winning Chef/Proprietor of Sage Restaurant, Midleton, where the 12-Mile Menu (most ingredients used bar flour, sugar, butter, cream and milk come from within 12 miles of the restaurant) has garnered national acclaim. Cork Chef of the Year, Restaurant Association of Ireland Awards 2014

WHAT was the first dish you ever cooked? Can’t remember the first dish I cooked at home, but in my first ever job, at the old Spanish Point restaurant in Ballycotton, I had to shell prawns all day long, eight hours a day. My hands used to be destroyed.

What was your most memorable meal? Travelling in Australia, I cooked a meal for my girlfriend, now wife, on a single gas yoke at sunset on a beach just outside Melbourne. We had shrimp on the Barbie — sure, we were in Oz!

Chicken — cheap or free-range or organic? I only use 12-mile chicken, we have only two suppliers, one is free range, one is organic, I think it matters more how good the producer is and how their birds are handled, treated and killed.

Does the global food crisis concern you — why and is there anything we can do about it? Well, my 12-mile philosophy, buying first and foremost from within 12 miles, is all about boosting and supporting my own local food community.

How do you eat well on a low income? Educating yourself how to cook cheaper cuts doesn’t mean they are any less tasty. Foraging is a great way to supplement the food you buy.

Is there such a thing as an Irish cuisine? Yes, it’s been around for centuries, we have cooking techniques and dishes that go back hundreds of years.

What is your favourite Irish dish? I love new season potatoes with butter and salt and fresh mackerel.

What is your favourite Irish ingredient? People tell me I’ve got something going on with beetroot but, personally, I don’t eat much of it. Probably I would have to say our cheese; we Irish are great at making it.

What is your favourite Irish restaurant? My own, I have no greater love than Sage!

What’s your favourite comfort food? A cheese toastie — no messing, strong cheddar, good bread.

Which five guests would you invite to your ideal dinner party? Rene Redzepi, Alex Ferguson, Anthony Bourdain, Jim Carrey and Chris Cornell.

What would you choose as your final meal? Once I’m not the one cooking it, I really don’t mind.

Kevin Aherne’s 12 mile Chowder

Serves 4

(Producers used for my chowder: Richard Guerin, Ballycotton, Hake; Bill Casey, Shanagarry, Organic smoked salmon; James Stafford, Roches Point, Fennel, potato & onion; Woodside Farm, Ballincurrig, free range streaky bacon; Orchard cottage farm, Carrigtohill, peas; Mark Cribben, Ballyhoura, Woodland sorrel.)

350g of skinless Hake

100g Smoked Salmon

120g streaky bacon

100g fresh summer peas

75g butter

200g onion

100g fennel bulb (keep the herb top for garnish)

150g peeled rooster potato

2 celery sticks

500ml cream

500ml of fish stock, If you don’t have any fish stock substitute it with milk

2 tbsp of wild garlic or 2 garlic cloves

16 woodland sorrel (optional)

Wild onion flowers (optional)

Dice all vegetables and bacon into 1/2cm cubes. Flake the smoked salmon into small pieces and then cut the hake in nice big chunks.

In a wide-based heavy-based pan, fry the bacon on a low heat for 12 minutes until crispy and all the fat has rendered out. Remove the fat from the pan (reserve to roast potatoes). In the same pan add the butter. Melt on a low heat and add the onion, fennel, celery & garlic and cook without colouring for 4 minutes. Now add the potato, cook for a further 4 minutes stirring occasionally. Now add the smoked salmon & fish stock (or milk). Bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the cream, peas and the hake. Bring back to the boil. Then turn off the pot. At this stage your chowder is made. Leave for another 4-5 minutes to gently poach the hake right through. Taste for seasoning. To serve, pour into warm wide-based bowl. Garnish with wild onion flowers and woodland sorrel.

Ariana Bundy

Ariana is a TV Chef and cookbook author of ‘Pomegranates & Roses: My Persian family Recipes’ (Simon & Schuster UK) and ‘Sweet Alternative’ (Conran-Octopus UK)

WHAT was the first dish you ever cooked? Fried onions, with my grandmother, she gave me a stool, a doily apron with sunflowers on it, very memorable for me.

What was your most memorable meal? Just eating grilled kebab with the family outdoors. Everyone in my family was there. It was in the countryside, just outside Teheran, before the revolution, before we were all scattered around the world. It was just an al fresco lunch with salad and rice and everyone together, just hanging out. We had something similar in Spain years later but not everyone was there. One of the reasons I wrote Pomegranates and Roses was to try and capture those kind of memories.

Chicken — cheap or free-range or organic? Organic free range. Of course, now you have to look to see whether it is organic caged-reared. I love to slow cook it with onions and saffron.

Does the global food crisis concern you — why and is there anything we can do about it? We can lower our consumption of meat, if not go veggie. Buy organic, locally-grown produce as much as you can. Don’t buy so much, don’t waste so much, just buy what you need. Teach children how to eat, avoid fast food restaurants like the plague. Start at home, you don’t need to start a campaign, just start with your kids.

How do you eat well on a low income? Eat Persian food! Persian cuisine was never seen as ‘cheap’, by any means. Iranians always had a very plentiful supply of very good food with plenty of fresh produce. There was never famine and the soil was very rich but the way the food was put together, for example, how meat was used in stews meant it would go a very long way. There is a lot of fresh herbs, a lot of pulses, ingredients played against each other: orange peel and julienne carrot; cinnamon and rosewater; chicken with prunes and apples. All these little touches go a long way and stretch a long way and rice is not expensive. And Iranian food, family food is better the next day, the flavours come together and settle so you can prepare in advance and save a lot of time. Freeze stews, rice parboiled and frozen and layered at the last minute.

Is there such a thing as an Irish cuisine? I don’t know a lot about Irish cuisine but I have read a little. I know it was quite hard living off the land, what Myrtle Allen has done and what some of the other chefs are doing — it is becoming a cuisine of its own. Ballymaloe is very Irish to me, seasonal, comforting. The only other time I was in Ireland, I was in Dublin in a trendy hotel and bar and that wasn’t really Irish food to me.

What is your favourite Irish dish? Irish stout stew, cooked with ale — delicious, not unlike Iranian stews, where we sear meat with onions and add liquid.

What is your favourite Irish ingredient? I love kale, is that a particularly Irish ingredient? I am a kale-obsessed individual, and I love Irish oats.

What is your favourite Irish restaurant (or world restaurant, if you like)? Well, I haven’t really been to many but I love Ballymaloe!

What’s your favourite comfort food? French fries, cooked in duck fat, with lots of salt, not undersalted and very crispy.

Which five guests would you invite to your ideal dinner party, excluding family or friends? Darina Allen, she’s fantastic, so energetic, so passionate; Alice waters, Jamie Oliver, Dalai Lama and Richard Gere.

What would you choose as your final meal? Amazing, sourdough baguette with a wonderful Irish butter. I mostly eat gluten-free because I am gluten sensitive, so as it would be my last meal, it wouldn’t matter.

And along with that I’d have jam and cheeses from Giana [Ferguson, of Gubbeen Cheese].

Khorakeh Morgh (Chicken Stew)

This little recipe will change the way you look at chicken forever. It is unbelievably simple and efficient: you will turn to it again and again, even when making dishes from other cuisines (I use it for Japanese hot pots, curries and cassoulets). It’s a master recipe. All you need to do is put the lot in a pan and let the whole thing gently cook away. The trick is to check your chicken for tenderness around the 45-minute mark if it is boneless, and about an hour if it isn’t. Depending on the thickness of your pan and the power of your stove, cooking times vary. If you miss the ‘tenderness’ point, your chicken will start to overcook and become dry. Once you get the hang of this, you will have tender, fragrant chicken every time.

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp oil

2 medium onions, sliced thinly or finely chopped

4 large chicken breasts (or thighs, skinless, with or without bones)

1 tsp salt

twist of pepper

1/3 tsp saffron threads (dissolved in 2-3 tsp hot water)

Put a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and add the butter, oil, onions chicken breasts, salt and pepper. As soon as everything heats up — about 5-7 minutes — reduce the heat to its lowest possible setting. Cover the chicken mixture and let it cook ever so gently for up to 1½ hours. Turn the chicken over halfway through the cooking process.

When the chicken is meltingly tender, add the saffron liquid, cook for a further two minutes, making sure the chicken is well coated with the saffron, and remove from the heat. Serve with rice.

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