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Easy family favourites with Dominique Woolf: Tamarind, Honey and Sesame Chicken

by Dominique Woolf

published on 15 July 2022

This month’s recipe is a special one for me – it’s the first dish I cooked on Jamie Oliver’s The Great Cookbook Challenge, and the one that got me through to the all-important final six.

The brief was to make our signature dish. I thought long and hard about what to do. All sorts of ideas whirled around my head. Would I go all out and try and recreate a restaurant-style plate of food? What sort of technical skills were they looking for? I knew I needed to impress them but the question was: how?

The answer lay in one of my favourite ingredients: tamarind. I’ll always remember the first time I knowingly tasted it. Not long after my first child was born, nearly eight years ago, my Thai Auntie Dang was visiting and had made us a jar of her homemade tamarind sauce. I had never had anything like it. In Thailand, they often serve it with a whole deep-fried fish, but on this occasion, she simply drizzled it over some pan-fried salmon alongside steamed rice and stir-fried broccoli. I was hooked. Tamarind is in fact a key ingredient in Pad Thai, so I actually would have had it hundreds of times without realising. As a stand-alone sauce, its sweet and tangy flavour profile really shone. It has been a storecupboard essential ever since, and I use it regularly in dressings, curries, marinades and sauces. 

When I was deliberating what to make for that first challenge, I decided I needed to showcase what I do best – easy, Southeast Asian-inspired home cooking packed with big flavours. I thought this chicken traybake would be perfect. On the show, I served it alongside my Peanut Serundeng – an aromatic, peanutty, coconut accompaniment I discovered in an Indonesian restaurant in Holland. Although it only takes minutes to make, the result is joyous – all crunchy, spicy and sweet at the same time – and adds a wow factor to whatever you sprinkle it over.

I have to admit though, that as I was serving up for the judges on the show, I did have a moment of doubt – why on earth had I chosen something so simple as a chicken traybake?! Perhaps I should have gone for something more elaborate after all. Fortunately for me, the judges were ‘blown away’ (Jimi Famurewa’s words, not mine!) and I breathed a sigh of relief.

This recipe remains one of my most popular – impressive enough to serve to guests, yet easy enough to whip up midweek when simplicity is the top priority. If you love a traybake then this is definitely one to add to your list!

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Dominique Woolf

Tamarind, Honey and Sesame Chicken

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 20 minutes optional marinating time.

Cooking time: 50 minutes.

Ingredients (serves 4)

120g tamarind paste (I use the brown variety of tamarind. If you have the more concentrated, inky-black version, just use 40g here, loosened with 5 tablespoons of water).

8 tbsp honey

3 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp sesame oil, preferably toasted

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

½ tsp salt

4 spring onions, cut into 5cm pieces

8 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in, fat trimmed

To serve:

spring onion, finely sliced

Delicious served with rice and the quick cucumber pickle on page 183 of Dominique’s Kitchen, the garlicky green beans on page 168 and the peanut serundeng on page 163.

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6.

In a jug, combine the tamarind, honey, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and salt.

Pour half the sauce into a roasting tray, then add the spring onions. Score each chicken thigh twice, then place on top, skin side up. Coat the flesh but leave the skin dry. Reserve the remaining sauce for drizzling over the finished dish. If you have time, leave to marinate for at least 20 minutes – if not, proceed to the next step.

Sprinkle each chicken thigh with sea salt flakes and a touch of black pepper, then place in the oven for 40–50 minutes, or until cooked through.

If you like a crispier skin, heat the grill to high and place the tray under it for a minute or two, or until the skin is done to your liking.

Once ready, sprinkle the chicken with thinly sliced spring onion. Combine the tray juices with the leftover sauce and drizzle over liberally. Great with bowls of rice, cucumber pickle and garlicky green beans, sprinkled with a few spoonfuls of peanut serundeng.

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