Chicken roasted with plums and spices
© Patricia Niven
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We all like our home to be a sanctuary from our working life, a place where we can unwind. Perhaps you are more successful at drawing this line than we are. Our flat has become an extension of our work, from the constant washing of chefs’ whites and trousers to the dining table that is always laden with paperwork and recipes, scribbled on notebook scraps waiting to be typed. Even our bedside tables are stacked high with cookbooks and food magazines.

We suspect we are not alone in this predicament — more and more of us are struggling to leave work at work. We’ve stopped fighting it now and try to make the most of the situation: when we start cooking a tray of this dish before noon so that it is ready for lunchtime customers at our deli, we are hopeful that there’ll be a couple of portions left for our dinner. It doesn’t often happen but when it does, we take our work home with us in a takeaway container and enjoy the fruits of our labour.

An incredible variety of plums is available at the moment, in lots of interesting colours and flavours. The abundance continues until the end of October, with a different variety to try each time: lovely greengages, sweet mirabelles, spicy damsons. The result will always be delicious, and it’s a good way to enjoy these seasonal treats.

The fruits bake beautifully — the cooking heightens their subtle taste and turns them into a sweet, sour and savoury chutney that is a joy to eat with the roasted chicken, straight from the oven or a few hours later. This dish is incredibly simple to cook — just a mix and bake number, which should leave you plenty of time to enjoy your hard-earned downtime.

© Patricia Niven

Chicken roasted with plums and spices

Serves three to four people

6-8 chicken thighs, depending on size
For the marinade
2 plums
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp whole fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tbs demerara sugar
3 tbs red wine vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
For the roasting tray
2-3 sticks of celery, cut into 5cm pieces
1 onion, peeled and cut into wedges
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
extra salt
8-10 plums, quartered and stones removed
1 tbs demerara sugar
A few springs of tarragon to garnish
  1. Make the marinade by blitzing everything together in a food processor until it is all combined to a purée. Pour the marinade over the chicken thighs and mix to make sure they are well-coated. A couple of hours will do the trick but you can leave it for up to 24 hours.
  2. Heat your oven to 200C. Place the celery, onions, garlic and half the plum quarters in a large roasting tray, and top with the chicken thighs, skin side up. Make sure to put all the marinade on to the chicken and season with some more sea salt. Roast for 20 minutes. Remove the tray, baste well with the juices that have formed at the bottom of the tray and reduce the oven to 180C; return the chicken for a further 10 minutes, then add the remaining plum quarters, sprinkle with the sugar and return to the oven for the final 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, baste again and garnish with a few tarragon leaves before serving.

Photographs: Patricia Niven

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