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I bought a couple of chicken breasts for lunch in Castres market this morning.

The recipe below is adapted from the late Ismail Merchant’s excellent book, Indian Cuisine.

Ismail Merchant

Ismail, who died too soon six years ago aged 68, was the producer half of the enormously successful film production team Merchant Ivory. I filmed The Europeans with them in New England in the autumn of 1978, with lovely Lee Remick.

Food played an important part in the ebullient Ismail’s modus operandi.

In earlier days he would do the rounds of the established film companies looking for backing, with a homemade apple pie in his bag.  Slices would be produced in exchange for the use of the telephone!

Money was never NOT a problem for them in those days and it was clear, deep into the filming in New Hampshire, that things were tight. Anxious creditors hovered and it was uncertain whether we’d be able to complete the filming.

About five o’clock one Saturday afternoon, I spotted Ismail coming in from the car park laden down with several grocery bags. “What’s up, Ismail?”

“Curry for dinner–everyone’s invited!”

He disappeared into the hotel’s kitchen which he had commandeered for the night.

At eight that evening, the whole company (at least 80 people) plus a few unfamiliar faces entered the dining room where  a wonderful Indian feast was laid out–a fantastic sight!

We finished the film on time, with no further rumours of money worries.

His simple recipe makes the rather bland chicken breasts more interesting with chili and cinnamon.

Chicken breasts sautéed with cinnamon, onions, and parsley

for 4

4 boned chicken breasts (without the skin)– sliced in half, lengthwise

4 tblsps olive oil

1 cinnamon stick– broken up

1 largish onion– chopped

2 to 3 small red chillies

juice of two lemons

Cook the onions gently in the oil with the cinnamon until soft.

Add the chicken breasts with the lemon juice.

Season with salt and pepper.

Turn them over after three minutes and cook for a further three minutes; then add the parsley and chillies.

Turn the breasts in the sauce and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes–the exact cooking time depends on the thickness of the chicken breasts.

In the pan...

(I just cooked two today.)

Cut into the thickest part of one to check. If it is still very pink, continue to cook another couple of minutes.

I served it with a salad of  raw fennel, radish, avocado and rocket  dressed with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a tablespoon of freshly-squeezed lemon juice, half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard,  salt and pepper,  whisked together.

On the plate....

A healthy & delicious dish for diabetics–and everyone else….

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