However, just lately I've seen a few recipes for Chicken Paprikash float past my consciousness and had found myself being drawn in to the idea once again. After all, my paprika pork recipes seem to be successful, so there really was no reason why a chicken version wouldn't work.
Particularly now I've the right paprika.
Now, because nobody tells you - I shall pass on the wisdom of my years of getting it wrong.
It seems as though buying paprika is one of those things that is fraught with misadventure. In the past, I've had your usual supermarket-gleaned small pots of paprika, graduating to a small pot of smoked paprika. They were okay - but I seemed to be missing out on the rich roasty toasty flavours that I see reported in food magazines and spoken of on food t.v. So I began to consider (we're going back a number of years here) whether my little pots of paprika were really quite up to the job - and maybe there was a more "authentic" type of paprika that offered the flavours I was missing.
We kept our eyes open for different types and began to see recipes requesting the use of "sweet" and "hot" paprika. Aha! So there was different types available! Why does nobody tell you that? Why did it take me a number of years to establish that there are as many types of paprika in the world as there are recipes? Well, that's the way it seems - I suspect there may be a few more recipes than types of paprika, in reality. Only a few, mind.
So our first score was with a tin of smoked paprika. This was before I realised that there was such an animal as a "sweet smoked" paprika. I also didn't notice that there was a heat rating on the tin. Ours was the hottest, at 3 chillies. So that explained why, when I used three teaspoonfuls of paprika in a recipe once, it tasted appalling. You see? Nobody tells you these things.
After a period of some months spent looking, we eventually sourced some of the sweet smoked paprika - and tranquillity was once more restored in our recipes.
Now, note please that I said "tin". If your paprika doesn't come in a tin, unless you've bought it on the continent somewhere, I suspect that you're being short changed in your paprika use. So, if you too have some little jars of paprika quaking nervously in your spice cupboard, I suggest you give them a ceremonial heave-ho into the bin and source some La Chinata Paprika - but watch out for the chilli rating, to establish which one you've got!
So anyway, I've digressed.
I had been looking at the various recipes that floated past my consciousness and picking out the bits that I liked, rejecting the bits that we wouldn't like and pondering over the gaps.
It seems as though Chicken Paprikash is a particularly American recipe - although I may be wrong in that. I suspect that it has origins in both Italy and Eastern Europe and may very well have become blended from those two cuisines. I gather that there are two ways of eating it - one where the sour cream is included in the recipe and the other where you eat it with sour cream alongside. I'd guess that this represents the two different origins for the dish. I decided to go with the "sour cream alongside" version, although I will admit to hedging my bets with regard to that until it was almost ready to serve. I reckoned that if the paprika or tomato was too strong, I'd just use the cream to calm it all down a bit.
As it was, the recipe - my version of the recipe - came together remarkably easily and didn't need calming down at all. It's wonderful when you've got the right ingredients to begin with - god bless those little tins of paprika.
One of hubby's favourite vegetables is the sweet pepper (capsicum pepper) and so he was very happy to have both red and green versions in evidence. The tomato cooked down beautifully and didn't become so acidic that it made the whole thing uncomfortable to eat and even the chilli flakes blended very happily into the whole, leaving their warmth and tangy spiciness as evidence of their presence.
I was really very pleased with the way this one turned out - it could so easily have degenerated into a disaster, but instead was a resounding success.
CHICKEN PAPRIKASH (feeds 3)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into large chunks
1½ tsp dried oregano
1½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
½ tsp hot smoked paprika
½ tsp finely ground black pepper
pinch of sea salt
400ml can of chopped tomatoes
2 heaped tsp of tomato puree
a pinch of red chilli flakes
1 tsp sugar
1 yellow capsicum pepper, cored, de-seeded and chopped into large chunks
1 green capsicum pepper, cored, de-seeded and chopped into large chunks
100ml soured cream.
1. In a large bowl, place the chicken chunks, the oregano, both types of paprika, black pepper and sea salt, plus half the garlic. Stir to coat the chicken in the spices and leave to one side.
2. To a deep wok or frying pan, add the rapeseed oil and the onions. Fry on a moderate heat for 5 minutes or so, until the onion is transparent, softened and turning golden.
3. Add the garlic and fry for another minute or so, stirring.
4. Remove the onions and garlic onto a plate with a slotted spoon.
5. Increase the heat under the frying pan and add a little more rapeseed oil, if necessary.
6. Once the pan is very hot, add the chicken chunks and fry until caramelised on two sides.
7. Reduce the heat to moderate, and add the tinned tomatoes, the tomato puree, chilli flakes, sugar and capsicum pieces, along with the onion/garlic mixture. Mix well to amalgamate and cover with a lid (or a baking tray, in my case!). Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
8. Once the capsicum is tender and the chicken is cooked through, remove from the heat and add two thirds of the soured cream. Stir through.
9. Serve with white rice and a dollop of soured cream on the side.