Lemongrass and buttermilk poached chicken with saffron tomato ragu recipe

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I adore buttermilk. Poaching white meat in it adds a delightful zing to the dish and, although this is a pretty instant recipe here, if you have the time to slow cook the chicken on the barest simmer I encourage you to go the extra step of letting it cool completely in the strained juices, which will set into a natural jelly. If I cooked this in summer I’d help it along by adding some gelatine to the juices so it could set enough to be cut into squares as part of a salad dish. Again, just another extension; a way of making the most of all the ingredients.

  • Yield: 4 Servings


  • 600 ml buttermilk
  • 2 fresh bay leaves, lightly crushed
  • 20 g ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, lightly crushed and cut into 5 cm lengths
  • 2 large free-range chicken breasts, skin on (about 320 g each)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • Basil leaves, to serve
  • Steamed broccolini, to serve (optional)
Tomato Ragu
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 brown onions, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 sticks celery, finely diced
  • 1 fresh bay leaf, lightly crushed
  • 8 sprigs lemon thyme
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons verjuice
  • 2 teaspoons saffron threads
  • 1 x 800 g tin roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (250 ml) vegetable or chicken stock
  • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped basil
How to Make It
  1. To make the tomato ragu, heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan over low–medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes or until soft and golden brown. Add the carrot, celery, bay leaf and thyme and cook for 10–12 minutes or until tender. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, then add the verjuice and simmer until nearly evaporated. Stir in the saffron, tomatoes and stock, then season to taste. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until thickened and reduced. Just before serving, remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs, and stir in the chopped basil.
  2. Meanwhile, place the buttermilk, bay leaves, ginger and lemongrass in a deep non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then add the chicken, skin-side down. Cover with a lid and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook for another 4–5 minutes or until cooked through – the cooking time will depend on the thickness of the breasts. If you have a digital thermometer, remove the chicken once the internal temperature reaches 62°C.
  3. If you are going to serve the skin (and I certainly do), heat the olive oil in another non-stick frying pan over medium–high heat. Pat the chicken lightly with paper towel to dry. Once the pan is hot, add the breasts, skin-side down, and pan-fry for 1 minute or until you get a slight caramelisation on the skin. Remove from the pan and rest, skin-side up, in a warm place for 10 minutes.
  4. Spread the ragu over a serving plate. Thickly slice the chicken against the grain, then place on top of the ragu and scatter with basil leaves. Serve with steamed broccolini on the side, if desired.

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