persian chicken and squash filo parcels


every new year david and i try to make the time to sit back and remember what we did in each and every month of the past year. films watched, friends visited, places explored, music heard and meals eaten. last year (a whole 3 weeks ago!) we did this on new year’s eve over supper.

inevitably, if you’re remembering special times you want to be eating a delicious meal and luckily the menu was very definitely up to scratch.

i’ll come back to our starter and pudding another day because, for me, the star of the show was these persian chicken and squash filo parcels. the spice flavours are quite complex but also gentle and comforting. as you’ll see, we ate this with roasted vine tomatoes and crunchy beans in fennel dressing which was a great combination. not least as it left enough space for pudding!

persian chicken and squash filo parcels (serves 4)

25g butter

2 chicken breasts, skin removed and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2cm dice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon cinnamon

125g long grain rice

300ml homemade chicken stock

pinch of saffron

1 heaped teaspoon of chopped pickled lemon skin (scoop out the centre and discard)

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons chopped coriander

50g flaked almonds

25g parmesan, grated

12 sheets filo pastry

butter, for melting

preheat the oven to 200c.

melt the butter in a large pan and sauté the chicken until it is cooked through and lightly browned, remove from the pan, leaving any juices, and set aside.

add the oil to the pan, with the butternut squash, cumin and cinnamon, cover and cook over a medium heat for 6-8 minutes until the squash starts to soften. add the rice and cook for 1 minute. stir in the stock, add the saffron, cover and bring to the boil, cooking until the rice is ready then add the cooked chicken.

allow to cool for 10 minutes before stirring in the pickled lemon, egg yolk, coriander, almonds and parmesan.

melt c50g butter then place 4 sheets of filo pastry on the work surface. brush liberally with butter. top each with another layer of filo at a 90 degree angle and brush this with butter. top with the final sheets of filo, at an angle to the other sheets and brush with butter.

split the rice mixture between the parcels the bring the filo together to form a pouch which you can then place on a greased baking tray. brush each pouch with butter and bake for 15 minutes until golden and crisp. cool slightly before serving.