dates

Special at the supermarket on huge north African dates. Add two chicken breasts and a bulb of fennel. Take home and start chopping…

This is easy, sweet and savoury as well as being low in fat. Fennel is a wonderful creature. When roasted it becomes a docile flavour, almost caramel yet still strong enough to stand up to a strong companion such as a spicy chorizo. The dates dissolve in the oven to give a sticky sauce and are picked up by the fresh cumin making a simple dish a surprising contrast of flavours. The whole garlic cloves become soft and liquid in the oven losing their pungency but none of their sweetness. (Obviously a spoon of maple syrup drizzled over the lot just before baking would not be out of place but that could remain optional…..)

Ingredients (serves 2)

6-8 sweet dates (halved and pitted)
2 chicken breasts (chopped into strips)
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds (toasted in a dry pan)
1 inch of fresh ginger root (finely crushed)
2-3 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of nut oil (or olive oil)
1 large tomato
1 bulb of fennel

Making

Preheat the oven to about 200 degrees

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan and set aside
Finely chop the ginger and mix with the nut oil in a small dish or glass. Add the toasted cumin to the mix at this point too.
Chop the chicken into strips. Then deal with the fennel. Remove the outer layers and the leafy stalks as well as the tougher ends and bottom from the bulb. Cut in half and place the cut side down. Then slice finely sideways into strips.
With a knife slice into each date and squeeze out the stone and then cut the dates in half
Cut the tomato into large chunks.

Layer the chicken, the fennel slices evenly along the bottom of an oiled oven proof dish and follow with another layer of the dates and tomato chunks plus the whole cloves of garlic.

Pour the ginger and oil mix over the layers along with a glass of water. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll know it’s ready when the fennel is soft and the chicken cooked through.