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Mandarin chicken

Oranges and poultry do work well together, whether it’s the classic Duck a l’orange or my poor man’s Mandarin Chicken.

Given where this one appears in my recipe book and the number of stains on the pages I’d say I originally wrote it down some 15 to 20 years ago. Sadly I’ve forgotten where from, so I may owe a credit to someone.

Below, I give the recipe in its original form which is a way I hardly ever cook it. I usually cook free-form, with only scant attention paid to absolute quantities, most of them judged by eye or hand, which makes for a variation in results.

Also as written, it works as a slow-cooked casserole, with flavours properly infused but if you’re short of time (or just impatient as I am), you can chop the chicken into bite-size chunks or slim sliced strips, coat in the flour mixture (see recipe), stir fry then leave in the pan, while adding the other ingredients to make the sauce. Allow the whole to bubble on the pan for 5 to 10 minutes while the meat cooks a little more and the sauce thickens.

Add the mandarins just before serving.

Variety is the spice after all and to me the whole point of having a recipe is to play around with it.

However you cook it, serve it with rice, pasta or potatoes (boiled, mashed, fried) it works well with all of them. Or if you’re on a diet, heap the whole lot over a generous bed of wilted spinach and dark lettuce leaves.

The quick-cook version is one of my favourites.

Ingredients

4 chicken portions (breast, thighs or legs skinned & de-boned)
Plain flour seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika (use only a little salt, but be generous with the pepper & paprika the resultant mixture should be well-speckled)
3 tbsp olive oil
3 spring onions, diagonally sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
275g can mandarin oranges in natural juice
125ml chicken stock (made from stock cube is fine)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vinegar (white whine vinegar for preference)
1 tsp Colman’s mustard powder (or equivalent – any mustard will work)
2 tsp corn flour (or other plain flour)

Procedure

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C (= 350 degrees F or Gas mark 4)

Coat the chicken portions in the seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole over a moderate heat and fry the chicken pieces for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Add the spring onions, green pepper and garlic to the oil and fry until softened.

Mix the juice from the mandarins with the stock, soy sauce, vinegar and mustard. Add to the pan, stir well to blend and bring to the boil. Return the chicken pieces to the dish and coat well with the liquid.

Cover the casserole dish and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 40 minutes.

Remove the casserole from the oven and transfer the chicken pieces to serving dish(es). Place the casserole back on a moderate heat on the hob and bring the remaining liquid to the boil. Blend the corn flour with 1 tbsp water and add to the sauce. Stirring continuously, allow the sauce to thicken (approx 3 minutes). Add the mandarins and heat through.

Pour the sauce over the chicken.