Morgh o Aloo (Persian Chicken and Dried Plum Stew)

A few weeks ago I wasn’t feeling well and was in no mood to cook for my family. So my mother brought over dinner for us. She made us this delicious Chicken and Dried Plum Stew. I immediately knew that I wanted to feature this dish. This slightly sweet, slightly sour stew is not only tasty but so easy to make.

Morgh o Aloo, to me, is the perfect family dinner. It is incredibly nutritious and balanced – protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and fruit. But more importantly it is a very easy one pot meal to prepare. One pot meals are a Godsend to the home cook. Simple to prepare and best of all, little clean-up…….just one pot! This stew is a dish that can be  prepped and cooked in about an hour…..and most of that is just letting it simmer.

The dried plums add a wonderful sweetness to this dish, while the tomato and lime juice add acidity. Like most Persian cuisine, it’s about perfect balance. Another option for this dish is to leave out the potatoes and serve it over rice, couscous or quinoa. Any way you serve it I’m sure you’ll find it delicious!

Morgh o Aloo
(Serves 4)

2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp turmeric
8-10 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
4 heaping tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
3 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 cup baby carrots (or peeled and sliced regular carrot)
1 cup pitted dried plums (prunes)
1/4 ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
2 tbsp fresh lime juice (or bottled Persian lime juice)
salt and pepper

In a large pot heat the oil over medium-high heat. Fry the onions, stirring frequently, for about 7-8 minutes until starting to get golden. Add the turmeric and fry for another minute.

Add the chicken thighs to the pan (if your pot is not non-stick add another tbsp of oil before adding the chicken). Brown the chicken for about 1-2 minutes per side.

Add the tomato paste to the chicken and stir. Fry for about one minute. Add the chicken broth and bring to a light boil. Then add the potatoes, dried plums, carrots, saffron water and lime juice. Stir. Bring to a light boil, and turn down to a simmer over medium-low heat.

Cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes until potatoes are tender. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy!

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Salad Olivieh (Persian Chicken, Potato and Egg Salad)

There is so much I love about summer: lounging in the sun, a glass of wine on a patio, BBQs, the cottage…….but one of my favourite things about the summer season is going on picnics. When I was young we went on a picnic almost every weekend. It was never a small affair. Many family friends joined us and we always had so much fun. Whenever I go to a park now and see a large immigrant family gathered around a picnic table I get nostalgic.

One of my absolute favourite picnic salads is Salad Olivieh. Although I call it a Persian salad, it is in fact a salad that we have borrowed and adapted from our neighbours in Russia. The original “Salad Olivier” was invented in the 1860s by Belgian chef Lucien Olivier, who was a celebrated chef at one of Russia’s most popular restaurants. The original salad by Chef Olivier contained grouse, veal tongue, caviar, lettuce, crayfish tails, capers, and smoked duck. Over the years the salad has evolved and changed and the modern salad is a delicious mixture of chicken, eggs, potatoes, peas and pickles in a creamy dressing.

I love my mother’s version of Salad Olivieh. It is much lighter and tastier than other ones I have tried. Using a store bought roast chicken makes this recipe much simpler and using waxy potato allows them to hold their shape in the salad and not turn into starchy mush.

Salad Olivieh
(serves 6-8)

1 whole roasted chicken
4 hardboiled eggs*
4 medium potatoes, peeled (preferably a waxy potato such as Yukon Gold)
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas, cooked**
3 green onions, sliced (both white and greens)
1 1/2 cups diced sour pickles (preferably pickles in brine)
1 cup mayonnaise (you may use light if you wish)
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Remove all the meat off the roasted chicken and dice into 1/2 inch pieces. Put into a large bowl.

Add the peas, pickles and green onions to the chicken. Peel the shell off the eggs and dice the eggs into half-inch pieces and also add to the salad.

Put the potatoes in a medium-sized pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 30-40 minutes until cooked (use a knife to poke them with to see if they are cooked). Drain and let cool. Dice into 1/2 inch pieces and add to salad.

To make the dressing, whisk the mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, olive oil, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Pour over salad and gently mix.

Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Chill for at least one hour.  Enjoy!

*To hard boil an egg: put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. When boiling turn down heat to a simmer (medium-low heat) and cook for 10 minutes. Drain. To cool it quickly cover with cold water.

**Cook as per the package directions. Usually boil them for 3 minutes, drain and rinse under cold water to cool them.