Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Breast on a bed of spiced apricots, with Crispy Parmentier Potatoes
This was a competition recipe, a long time ago. I entered the Observer Cookery Competition for which one had to come up with a menu from a list of ingredients. The top six entrants were then invited to come and cook their food at what I believe was the Leith School of Cookery – although merciful forgetfulness has descended and I don’t remember a lot about the whole affair or who came to judge it, probably not the great Prue herself. I think I came last out of the six finalists, although we weren’t given a formal grade. However that may be, this recipe is one that seemed to impress. It’s easy and tasty and goes down well for a relaxed family dinner. You can put the world to rights while it’s cooking itself in the oven.
Timings: 20 minutes preparation, 50 minutes in the oven.
Pour the hot black tea onto the apricots and leave to soak while you prepare the other parts of the meal. (You can do this in the morning if you have tea left in the tea pot, they won’t harm if they stand all day in the tea).
Pre heat the oven to 210°C and put some fat in a roasting tray in the oven to heat up. Cut up the potatoes into cubes about 1 ½ cm on a side. I prefer to leave the skins on – for the extra texture and for the nutrition, but that does mean they can be a bit uneven – peel them if you want perfection! By the time you’ve cut them up, the fat will be nice and hot, so tip the potatoes into the roasting tin and stir up a bit to avoid sticking. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put them back in on the top shelf of the oven.
Lay a piece of prosciutto flat on a plate and put a chicken breast on top. Wrap the prosciutto around it and fold it over to make a wrapped parcel. Do the rest of them like that and place them all on a roasting tray. They can now go on the lower shelf of the oven for 40 minutes.
The apricots should have plumped up and absorbed all the liquid. Snip them up more if they need it and put them in a small pan with the spices. Cook over a low heat and simmer down into a puree as they absorb the warmth of the spice, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning – you don’t need salt as the point of the dish is the contrast between the salt prosciutto and the sweet apricots but you might need a stronger spice or some pepper. Remove the cardamom pods and puree the fruit using a stick blender to give a smooth velvety fruity cream.
Every now and then take the tray of potatoes out of the oven and turn over the cubes with a spatula – at first the wet sides of the potato will stick on the bottom of the tray but soon they will start to crisp up.
You don’t need to turn the chicken pieces at all or do much to them, they don’t even need basting.
When the potatoes are golden and crunchy and the chicken breasts are done – the meat should be moist but cooked through and the prosciutto will be crisp – serve the breasts on a spoonful of apricot puree with a scoop of potatoes alongside and maybe some simple steamed green beans.
If you have some potatoes left over, my son informs me these are the absolute best “breakfast potatoes” – warmed through in a frying pan next morning and served with a fried egg - it might be worth making extra just for that.
A Hug from the Kitchen
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