Many months ago the food writer and chef Rick Stein did a series called ‘Long Weekends’ on the BBC; a long jaunt around beautiful European cities eating and talking through the stories of each place he visited. Unlike many chefs Stein is quite the raconteur and his enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity was infectious. He’s also old school. His love of hearty food, that has its roots in the land and traditions of its people, a welcome respite from the neurotic fine dining dishes we are bombarded with on a daily basis. His musings reminding us all that the preparation and cooking of food is an expression of love for history, family, culture.
On one of his jaunts he went to Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of Greek Macedonia, which, being over 2,500 years old, is built on many histories, stories and empires. The food he ate there looked wonderful and, although this dish actually originates in Kozani, a nearby town that’s famous for its saffron, I’ve decided to share it with you. Krokos Kozanis is the Greek for saffron and this dish makes the most of it. A delicious Greek chicken stew with sweet prunes, fragrant saffron and smoky paprika.
8 chicken thighs, skin removed
pinch of Kozani saffron (or Spanish saffron)
4 tbsp olive oil
3 red onions, thinly sliced
1½ tbsp sweet paprika
20 pitted prunes
1 tsp salt
Salt and pepper
Put the chicken thighs in a large saucepan with 1 litre water and the saffron. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and poach chicken for 10 – 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and sweat the onion gently until very soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the paprika, cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken thighs, about 700ml of the cooking liquid and the prunes. Season with the salt and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes, until heated through.
If the sauce is very watery, remove the chicken, prunes and onions with a slotted spoon and keep warm while you reduce down the sauce, so that you have a small amount to spoon over each portion.
Serve with pilaf rice.