Persian-Style Stew of Chicken with Aubergines & Courgettes
This chicken, aubergine and courgette stew recipe is one of my favourites. I hated aubergines when I was a child and refused to touch any dish with aubergines in it. I think only when I was fourteen or fifteen I finally started to eat aubergines and fell so in love with the flavour and silky texture of well-cooked aubergines that the rich stew of lamb and aubergines my mum made (khoresht-e bademjun) became my favourite dish. This is a very easy and quick chicken version of that fragrant, comforting stew.
Stews (khoresht/khoresh/ghalyeh) are the equivalent of curries in Persian cuisine. They are usually made with lamb, beef, chicken, prawns or fish and vegetables or herbs. Very few are spicy at all.
Stews are normally eaten with plain rice. My quick chicken, aubergine and courgette stew is very nice with rice but lovely with crusty bread to dip in the sauce too.
Khoresht-e bademjun is made with aubergines cut into halves lengthwise. The halves are fried long and slow until they are completely cooked through. Oh, and the classic version is made with lamb. It takes about three hours to do everything properly. By the way, courgettes are sometimes added to that stew but there is also one made in quite a similar way only with courgettes. You can replace one with the other in this easier version if you wish.
I usually don’t have the luxury of spending three hours to make a meal so I cut the vegetables into rounds and score the chicken breasts like in the picture to reduce the cooking time. It takes about an hour to put the dinner on the table this way. While the stew is cooking there will be time to set the table and make the rice too. It’s not the same but still good, I think.
Apart from reducing cooking time using chicken breasts rather than thighs and legs helps cut a few calories too. You can use thighs if you prefer, or even a mixture. I recommend using smaller Asian aubergines if you can find them in your local shops. They are quite tastier than the large ones found in supermarkets.
This dish can be prepared ahead and reheated in the same pan (or in the oven) when needed so it’s a good one for entertaining. It will taste even better after a few hours!
To serve four people you need the following ingredients:
- 2 medium red onions, finely chopped
- 4 tbsp cooking oil (I like extra-virgin rapeseed oil)
- 2 large or 4 small aubergines, sliced 2cm thick
- 2 medium courgettes, sliced 2 cm thick
- 4 chicken breasts, scored about 2mm deep all over with a sharp knife
- 20g butter (or 2 tbsp oil)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp sweet smoked Spanish paprika (optional)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Small pinch of cardamom
- Scant tsp salt (or to taste)
- A handful of small plum tomatoes
- 250ml tomato juice or boiling water
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a non-stick coated frying pan over medium heat and sauté the chopped onions until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add the rest of the oil to the pan and fry the aubergine and courgette slices until golden brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Melt the butter in the same pan over medium heat and fry the chicken breasts on both sides until golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Return the sautéed onions to the pan and add all the spices. Cook for a minute or two until the spices become fragrant. Pour the tomato juice or boiling water over and bring to the boil.
- Arrange the chicken breasts and fried aubergines and courgettes in the pan and scatter the tomatoes on top. Lower the heat and cover the pan with a lid. Braise gently until the chicken is cooked through, the vegetables are soft and the sauce has thickened a little, about thirty minutes. Spoon the sauce over the chicken pieces from time to time during cooking and add more boiling water if the juice evaporates too quickly during this time.
- When the chicken is cooked through and the sauce looks thick enough adjust the seasoning and cook a minute or two longer. Serve hot with rice or crusty bread and a lemony lettuce salad. Enjoy!