Chicken with ginger, saffron and dates

Chicken with ginger, saffron and dates

Pollo con zenzero, zafferano e datteri

Helen Cathcart

Chicken was used a great deal in Italy during the Middle Ages but less so these days. Italians generally seem to prefer the flavour of guinea fowl or game. I love to use it and so I was happy to discover this quick chicken stew among the 14th century recipes written by anonymous chef the Anonimo Veneziana.

‘LXXVI. A most perfect quick stew. If you want to make a quick stew. Take six hens and fry them in lard, then take away the lard so that there is not too much. Add (to the pan and the hens) almond milk tempered with verjuice, minutely chopped ginger, dates cut into quarters and to add color to this dish saffron and it will be a good dish.’


Quantity Ingredient
freshly ground black pepper
1 medium chicken, jointed
or 6 chicken thighs
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
100g fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 knob salted butter
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3cm cinnamon stick
4 cloves
650ml Almond milk
10 medjool dates, stoned and quartered
1/2 teaspoon saffron strands
small bunch parsley, to serve (optional)
or small bunch coriander, to serve (optional)
handful toasted almonds


  1. Season the chicken all over then brown all over in a large frying pan in sunflower oil over a medium heat. Peel the ginger and garlic then pulse together in a food processor until puréed. Alternatively finely grate the ginger and garlic into a bowl.
  2. When the chicken is crispy and mid-golden all round, remove from the pan and set aside. Discard the oil.
  3. In a large frying pan that has a lid, warm the olive oil and butter together over a medium heat. Fry the onion for around 5 minutes until just becoming soft. Add the ginger and garlic purée, bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves. Transfer the chicken pieces into the pan and stir through to coat the chicken in the spices. Pour over the almond milk (and ground almonds if using), add the dates and scatter over the strands of saffron. Once the milk has come to the boil, turn the heat down and cook for 50 minutes to 1 hour with the lid on, or until the meat is falling from the bone. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
  4. Either serve straight away or allow the chicken to cool and pull the meat from the bones with your fingers. Discard the bones and put the meat back into the sauce and reheat when you are ready to serve. I must admit I prefer it this way as it is easier for people to eat. Decorate the plate with torn parsley or coriander, if using, and the toasted almonds. Serve with rice, the spiced cauliflower or broccoli with raisins and buttered carrots with herbs.
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