Chicken Star Anise

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The inspiration for this recipe came from a delicious meal, eaten two summers ago, amongst the ancient olives trees at the Ada Hotel in Gol-Turkbuku, the capital of the so-called ‘Turkish Riviera.’ The original dish was octopus, cooked to absolute perfection, with not a hint of chewiness to it. Octopus is demanding though – first, you’ve got to find one, next you’ve really got to cook it for a long time (3-4hrs) to get it soft, then last, you have to convince people that they actually want to eat it! (The hardest bit! Understandable though, I think, that purple, sucker-covered tentacles do appear to be an acquired taste).

So, this version contains chicken (very much less controversial, and hence likely to please octopus-phobes), but retains the star ingredients – cinnamon and star anise. I’ve also added black olives (cooking seems to take these from standardly to stratospherically delicious), as well as chunks of potato. The original dish was more of a kind of mop-up-with-bread affair, but the chicken takes this more into casserole territory, so I think the potato works well.

Dainty little star anise and thick curls of cinnamon really add to the plate-appeal when this is served, so don’t be tempted to substitute the whole spices with ground! These spices are also what set this dish apart in casserole terms, a breath of the East amongst the familiar flavours of tomatoes, wine, and parsley.



(Serves 4) 

  • 1.5kg chicken – cut into serving pieces, skin removed
  • 1 large brown onion – coarsely chopped
  • 500g small potatoes - peeled
  • 500g plum tomatoes
  • Light olive oil for frying
  • 200mls white wine
  • 5 star anise
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks – cut or broken in half in the centre
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • Salt & pepper
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • Handful of black Kalamata olives – pits removed
  • Small bunch of parsley – chopped

Put a pot of water on to boil. Once boiling, place the whole plum tomatoes inside and cook for 5 minutes, until the skins bubble. Drain in a colander and cool, before pinching the skins off with your fingers and chopping the tomato pulp, taking care not to lose any of the juice.

Cut the potatoes into manageable pieces, if you have quite small potatoes, they may only require halving.

In a large, heavy-bottomed casserole pan, shallow fry the chicken pieces in olive oil over med-high heat until they colour nicely on the outside. Season these with salt and pepper, then put aside. Fry the potatoes in the same pan (adding more oil if necessary) until these are similarly coloured. Season with salt, and put aside.

In the same pan, fry the chopped onion until it just colours, then add the star anise and halved cinnamon sticks, and cook together for a minute or so. Pour in the white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon as you do so, then add the chopped tomato pulp, and sugar. Bring to a boil, then re-introduce the chicken and potatoes, arranging these in a single layer if possible. Cover and reduce to a simmer, cooking for 25 minutes.

Keep an eye on liquid levels during the cooking and top up with a little water if things begin to look dry. After 20 minutes, add the olives, and whole cherry tomatoes. Cook for a further 15 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, and zest. Stir through and check the seasoning. Insert a sharp knife into the centre of a potato to check that this has cooked through.

To serve, arrange each piece of chicken in some sauce with a few potatoes, making sure that each plate has a star anise and cinnamon stick. Scatter parsley lightly on top.