Silk Purse, Sow’s Ear: Creamy Cider Chicken

I was all-too-aware of this blog already becoming a one-note piece, with every recipe being some form of cake or baked good. I realise baking recipes are always wanted in the modern age of Bake Off, especially as we are heading full-throttle towards Christmas now.

I always place supreme importance on the evening meal. Opening a tin (unless I’m cooking with it – tinned beans and veg should be a staple in anyone’s cupboard) or stabbing some holes in the top of a plastic sheet are just not my thing and never have been. You’ll be surprised what you can rustle up if you just have a quick hunt around your freezer, fridge and store cupboards. If there’s one time I must eat well, it’s in the evening. But I’ll climb swiftly down from my high horse and get to the recipe in hand.

This came about after one such forage, as I’m currently (mostly – it’s the festive season and I allow myself the odd frivolous splurge in the kitchen) on a ‘use what you have’ kick after spending quite a bit of time on the inspirational Jack Monroe’s blog. Monroe has really turned me on to budgeting tighter with food shopping and just using my brain a bit to get through those ageing tins and packets in my store cupboard. Although thank God I’m not in the position she was in, where it was necessity to feed a growing child on next to nothing, I still think in an age of shockingly high food waste (Hugh’s War On Waste also left an indelible mark on my conscience) we all should be judicious and just try and make use of what’s already in the house.

Braising can transform any bit of meat into something good, and this recipe has a whiff of the French bistro about it in its taste. And any liquid is fair game for braising, which is why I’m not joking when I’ve listed Strongbow cider in the ingredients. I don’t hold with snobbishness in cooking, and I drink the stuff without regret. Cider is a popular braising agent for pork but I couldn’t see why it could zhuzh up some freezer-burned chicken thigh fillets I had buried in there. I am a firm believer in the thigh fillet – half the price, twice the flavour of stringy breast.  If I’d had some fiery wholegrain mustard at the time then that would have gone in too. I had the dregs of a bottle of Normandy Calvados that was too scant for even a weak cocktail and some cream in the fridge that also needed using up.

I’m not saying go out and buy a bottle of Calvados especially, if you have brandy in the cupboard, use that, or leave it out if you don’t have either!  The carrots provide a decent vegetable bulk, so just serve over any starch you fancy – I made it with some plain white rice, but buttered noodles would be good, as would be some mash. And if you want to put greens on the side, feel free. Use what’s to hand.

I almost forgot to take a photo of it so sorry it’s not the best entry in food styling. Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Creamy Cider Chicken


1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 chicken thigh fillets, cubed
splash Calvados
splash cider vinegar
2-3 carrots, sliced diagonally
Generous pinch mixed herbs
1 can (440ml) Strongbow cider (or any cider you have)
rougly 100ml double cream

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until soft.
  2. Add chicken pieces and carrot slices and stir to combine.
  3. Splash over Calvados and cider vinegar and let bubble for a few seconds.
  4. Pour over the cider and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and tender.
  6. Remove lid and add the cream, stirring to combine and simmer for just a few minutes over a low heat to allow flavours to mingle but try not to let it split. It shouldn’t be too watery but if you want it thicker, slake some cornflour with a little water and add until thickened to your liking.
  7. Serve over any plain starchy accompaniment your heart desires – rice, pasta or mashed potato and enjoy.

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