Mark Hix recipes: Our chef shows how to make chicken interesting

Chicken has become almost ubiquitous in our cuisine

Serve chicken goulash with boiled potatoes or rice
Serve chicken goulash with boiled potatoes or rice

It was some 20 years ago when I was introduced to Reg Johnson by chef and restaurateur Paul Heathcote. Reg was one of the first poultry producers to bring our chefs corn-fed chicken and high-quality duck that matched the French poultry we were used to. My restaurants have certainly benefited from his work over the years.

Sadly on 18 November last year Reg passed away. His warm and generous nature will be missed by all of us, but the family are strong and keeping the business going, so we still have the birds to remind us of good old Reggie.

Chicken Goulash

Serves 4

Goulash isn't made so often these days but it's a classic. I'm fond of it made with almost any meat. You can serve this with boiled potatoes or rice, as you prefer.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 chicken legs, halved at the joint
2tbsp plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
60g butter
2 red onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
½tbsp paprika
½tbsp tomato purée
150ml red wine
1 ltr beef or chicken stock
½ a can of chopped tomatoes

Season the chicken and dust with flour. Heat a heavy-based frying pan with a couple of tablespoons of the oil and brown the pieces of chicken on a high heat, turning as they are cooking. Remove from the pan and transfer to a plate.

In the same pan, add the butter, onions, garlic and paprika, and stir on a low heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the flour and tomato purée, stir well, then gradually add the red wine and stock, stirring continuously to avoid lumps forming. Add the chicken and any juices along with the tomatoes, bring back to the boil, season and simmer gently for about an hour until the chicken is tender. If there is too much sauce, then remove the chicken and simmer the sauce longer to thicken it, or dilute with a little stock or water.

Chicken stuffed with prawns

Serves 4

If possible get prawns with the heads and shells on, as it really boosts the flavour for the sauce. You could even use langoustines. Serve this with some lightly cooked young spinach, or even sea vegetables like sea aster or sea beet.

4 large chicken legs
2 chicken thighs, skinned, boned and minced
20 or so small raw prawns with the heads and shells removed and reserved for the sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

A couple of good knobs of butter
The shells and heads from the prawns
The bones from the legs , chopped into 2 or 3 pieces
2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1tsp flour
A pinch of saffron
1tsp tomato purée
100ml white wine
350ml chicken stock
2tbsp double cream
A good pinch of chopped tarragon

With the point of a sharp knife cut the flesh away either side of the thigh bone and up to about 2cm past the joint, leaving the skin and flesh as intact as possible. Chop the knuckle and bones into small pieces with a heavy chopping knife and put to one side for the sauce.

Remove the heads from the prawns and set aside. For the stuffing, chop a third of the prawns and mixed with the minced chicken thighs. Season well.

Push the stuffing into the flesh from the legs, as far up the drumstick as you can, leaving around a tablespoon of stuffing on the thigh part. Fold the thigh meat over to encase the stuffing, and secure with a couple of cocktail sticks so the stuffing doesn't fall out.

Chicken stuffed with prawns: serve with some lightly cooked young spinach, or sea vegetables 

Wrap each leg tightly in cling film so you end up with a kind of miniature ham-shape. Place the legs in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large pan, fry the shells, heads and chicken bones with the shallots and garlic for 6-7 minutes, until lightly coloured, then add the flour and stir well.

Add the saffron and tomato purée. Stir well then gradually stir in the wine and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes until reduced by half. Add the cream and tamarind and simmer gently for 30 minutes until reduced by half again, and a thick consistency. Strain through a colander into a bowl. Remove about half a cupful of the shells (not the chicken bones) and blend with the sauce in a liquidiser. Use a fine-meshed sieve to strain into a saucepan.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Remove the clingfilm from the chicken legs and place in a small roasting pan, season and spoon over a little oil. Roast for about 30 minutes or until golden.

To serve, reheat the sauce, add the prawns and simmer for a minute or so. Remove the chicken from the roasting tray and dry on kitchen paper. Place the chicken on warmed serving plates and spoon the sauce over.

Tamarind chicken

Serves 4

You can buy tamarind in liquid form from Asian supermarkets; it's easier to use than tamarind block. Alternatively, pomegranate molasses makes a decent substitute. This is perfect to serve with rice. I've used wild rice here, so it's a bit black-on-black in appearance, but feel free to use white if you prefer.

1 whole chicken or 6 legs
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
50g root ginger, scraped and finely grated
2-3 medium chillies, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g liquid tamarind
2tbs clear honey

Tamarind chicken is perfect to serve with rice

Bone and chop the legs into large chunks or, if using a whole bird, remove the legs, bone and chop them. Remove the backbone at the base of the carcass and reserve for a stock or gravy. Remove the wings then cut the carcass in half by flipping it upside down and cutting it lengthways down the middle, then cut each half into two or three chunks.

Mix the chicken with all of the rest of the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Transfer the chicken and marinade to an ovenproof dish and cook in the oven for 1-1.5 hours, basting every 15 minutes or so, until the marinade reduces and just coats the pieces of chicken. Serve immediately or keep warm in a very low oven until serving.

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