Bergamot Chicken

Firstly, let me apologise for the long absence between posts. Had a few personal issues to deal with for the last few weeks (or is it months? Oh God.). Anyway, this was a recipe that I should have put up last month but never got round to it.

Orange chicken is a Chinese restaurant staple, as is the similar-in-style lemon chicken. It’s essentially chicken pieces stewed in a citrus and cornflour sauce with some aromatics and served over rice or noodles. I’ve seen plenty of crimes against this dish but it’s actually really simple to make. If you don’t like fruit in savoury dishes, look away now.

My local Waitrose started selling bergamots in packs of two last month. For those who don’t know, the bergamot is a type of bitter orange with a strong and distinctive fragrance. It’s oil is used in the cosmetics industry as well is being the main flavouring in Earl Grey tea. The juice of the bergamot also goes very well in gin cocktails, but more on that later.

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Available from your local Waitrose. No advertising contract given.
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They might be ugly, yellowish-green and mottled, but they are a kind of orange and don’t be fooled by their appearance. However don’t peel and eat fresh as they are sour and bitter.

 

Anyway, never one to pass a curious new ingredient by, I bought some and looked to find a way to cook with them (they’re inedible and sour raw) and pondered how well it would work as an exotic subsitute for orange in orange chicken as I’ve also replaced the orange with lemon in the same capacity and got decent results before.

Firstly, the basic recipe is not mine, but from the charismatic (and beautiful) Italian-American YouTube cook Laura Vitale, of whom I am a huge fan.  So 75% of the credit goes to her.  Which is why the measures are in US cups. You’ll find the smell of these ugly, mottled, not-orange-coloured oranges overwhelming but I promise you, this really works! Though don’t be tempted to go too mad and use more than 1 orange otherwise you’ll be in sickly bubble bath territory. Try it before Waitrose takes them off sale. Serves two over rice.

 

Bergamot Chicken

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3-4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into cubes.
1 egg white
2 Tbsp cornflour
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1-2 tbsp any flavourless cooking oil

For the sauce:
1 cup (250ml) chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
1  bergamot orange, zest and juice (makes about 1/4-cup but obviously depends on the fruit. Don’t be tempted to go overboard!)
3 tbsp light soft brown sugar
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar (any will do. Rice vinegar is probably the best)
1 tbsp ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp cornflour slaked in 1 tbsp water

 

  1. Mix egg white and cornflour in a bowl and add chicken. Season with salt and pepper, stir to coat and set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Add bergamot zest & juice, chicken stock, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar to a jug and stir to combine.
  3. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and add the chicken, turning with wooden spoon to prevent sticking together, but sear long enough to get a good colour. When nicely browned, add the ginger and garlic and cook for a minute or two more.
  4. Pour in the sauce ingredients and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer for 10 minutes until sauce has reduced.
  5. Pour in slaked courflour slurry and cook for a few minutes more until sauce has thickened. You want a bit of ‘gravy’ but the chicken should be well coated.
  6. Serve over rice.

 

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