Chicken with prunes and carrots in orange sauce

December 1, 2009  •  Category: ,

This is an Iranian recipe. I am an admirer of Persian culture as well as its cuisine. I hope that someday I can  visit Iran and see first hand the amazing architectural sights,  especially in Isfahan, the city that Agatha Christie called “the most beautiful city in the world. For the time being, I simply enjoy Persian cuisine from time to time  and this dish is one of my favorite. It encompasses the essence of Persian cuisine, because it mixes sweet (fruit) and savory (chicken) in a wonderful way. In Lebanese cuisine I found a few dishes that are similar and I am sure they were a reflection of the Persian influence. After all, in 600 BC, the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great took over Lebanon for two centuries and made Sidon its capital, naming a Phoenician satrapwho built and commanded the Persian navy.  A couple of hundred years later, the Greeks took over and Alexander the Great laid siege to Tyre for seven months.

Revenons à nos moutons, like the French say. (let’s get back to the topic at hand)

This chicken dish is ideal for a party because it tastes better the next day. So, it is best prepared in advance. The rice, however, needs to be cooked about two hours before serving (its fragrance will envelop the room) and it does require your attention! All in all, this is a special  meal that will enchant your guests. It is also the title of Marjane Satrapi’s book Chicken with plums(Poulet aux prunes) in which she tells (graphically)  the tale of the last days of  her famous uncle, a musician, who loved that dish.

I consulted Linda Chirinian’s Secrets of Cooking for the chicken recipe and Najmieh Batmanglij’s New Food of Life for the rice.

INGREDIENTS: This quantity will yield 6 servings

  • 1.5 pounds chicken thighs, skinned
  • 1 medium onion (about 5 ounces), chopped fine
  • 1 pound of carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds or matchsticks
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
  • 1 large orange, juiced or 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 12 (or more) pitted prunes
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water
  • 4 (or more) tablespoons clarified butter or oil
  • 1/2 cup (or more) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron, crushed and steeped in 2 tablespoons hot water

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  1. Rinse the chicken or rub with a cut lemon. Pat dry and sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper all around.
  2. Dip the chicken in flour.
  3. Heat the oil or clarified butter in a large skillet and brown the chicken all over, which will take about 25 minutes.
  4. Transfer the chicken pieces into a large pot. Add the chicken broth or water to the skillet and scrape the browned bits from the skillet to release and incorporate into the broth. Add the broth with the browned bits to the pot with the chicken.
  5. Add more clarified butter to the skillet and drop the onion in the skillet and fry till translucent. Add the carrots and the brown sugar and stir to coat the carrots. Fry for about 10 or 15 minutes to soften the carrots and let them caramelize a bit.
  6. Add the carrots and onions to the pot.
  7. Strain the saffron and add to the pot with the chicken and carrots and onions. Cover the pot and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. At this point, you can collect the broth from the pot by straining it and let it sit in the freezer for a couple of hours to collect the fat that congeals on the surface. Place the broth back in the pot with the chicken and vegetables.
  8. Add the orange juice and the prunes to the pot. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning.
  9. Serve the chicken with Basmati rice.







  • 2 cups of Basmati rice
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons plain yoghurt (can be replaced by 2 egg yolks)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water or pounded in  mortar with a pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of clarified butter or oil

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  1. Place the rice in a large bowl and pour some lukewarm water over it. Agitate the rice and water gently with your hand, then pour the water off. Repeat this 5 times until the rice is clean.
  2. Soak the rice in 4 cups of  water with one tablespoon of salt for 2 hours (up to 24 hours)
  3. Bring 4 cups of water with 2 teaspoons of salt to the boil in a non-stick pot. Drain the rice and place it in the pot. Boil the rice for 6 minutes. Stir the pot a couple of times during the cooking to make sure no rice is stuck at the bottom of the pot. Grab a couple of grains with the spoon and bite them. If they are soft, the rice is ready. If not, let boil one minute longer.
  4. Immediately drain the rice in a colander, pouring a few cups of water over the drained rice to rinse it.
  5. Place the yoghurt in a small bowl. Add to the yoghurt about 1/3 cup of clarified butter, 1/4 cup of water and  the saffron water and mix well. Add three spatulas of the drained rice to this mixture and place the yoghurt/rice mixture in the bottom of the non-stick pot, packing it down with the spatula all over the bottom of the pot. This is the trick to create a golden crust or tah dig (hasseera) which will be displayed when the rice is cooked.
  6. Taking one spatula of rice at a time, gently place it on top of the rice and yoghurt layer, forming a pyramid. Poke two holes in the rice pyramid with the handle of a spatula or wooden spoon.
  7. Cover the pot and cook the rice for 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat to form  the golden crust. This is the tricky part, because you want the crust to be golden not black or brown!
  8. Mix the remaining butter with 1/2 cup of hot water and pour over the rice pyramid. Place a cleaned dish towel (or you can use some sturdy paper towels) over the pot, cover with the lid and cook for another 30 minutes and up to 40 minutes longer, on low heat.
  9. Remove the pot from the heat. Place the rice on a damp surface for 5 minutes to free the crust. I use a trick which is to place the pot on a cookie sheet  on which I scattered a few ice cubes.
  10. Invert the rice on a platter (holding the platter tight over the uncovered pot, then flip!)
  11. Serve the rice in wedges.

poulet aux prunes


23 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. SE(Denufood) says:

    hey I am first time’ve got a nice space and awesome dishes with pics..I have couple of iranian friends so know some of there recipes..

  2. rebecca says:

    oh wow this is great oh I would love for you to do a guest post for chow and chatter some time with some history

    rebeccasubbiah at yahoo dot com Rebecca

  3. Jhonny Walker says:


    I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog. It is one awesome blog. I am quite a fan of of persian food. Only thing is it takes a bit of time and patience. And that is why I make so little of it. But I adore it. And your way of explaining is just awesome. I can just keep reading and tasting it…without even making it.

    Thanks a zillion!

  4. irina says:

    This looks exquisite. I love combinations of savoury and sweet, especially when the savoury is meat, and the sweet is dried fruit. I may even try this later this week!

  5. Rosa says:

    A fabulous dish! I love that flavor combo!



  6. Arwen from Hoglet K says:

    The golden crust on the rice looks great! It would definitely take attention to make sure it wasn’t black though. I’ve never had rice like that before, but I’d love to try it.

  7. Dimah says:

    Yum, that sounds delicious!

  8. SydneyCider says:

    Hi Joumana, keefek? Ca va?

    First time here for me as well! I can’t believe I haven’t seen your blog yet. Great topics, and you show a lot of in depth knowledge in articles. It is GREAT to find another Lebanese food blogger (who knows what they are talking about). What Lebanese dishes did you find that were similar to this one?

    Keep up the good work


  9. Murasaki Shikibu says:

    This has made me hungry because I can just imagine how this might taste. lol

  10. oum mouncifrayan says:

    excellent recipe with all these details!!! thanks
    going to have a look on the whole blog that i find very interesting!! see you

  11. Joanne says:

    I too love the sweet and savory combination so that so often appears in food from this region of the world. This looks like a fantastically delicious dish. And I love that it is make-ahead. I will be bookmarking this for my next dinner party.

    Saffron is one of my favorite things to cook with (too bad it is so expensive!).

  12. Doria says:

    Effectivement c’est un excellent plat !
    Je vois que les agrumes sont également utilisé qui doit parfumés merveilleusement cette recette !
    Bisous, Doria

  13. Ivy says:

    I don’t know anything about Iranian cuisine but this dish has all the ingredients I love in it. I am the only one who likes chicken thighs in the family. Do you think I can make it with chicken breasts or will it be too dry?

    • Joumana says:

      Hi Ivy! I have made this dish with breasts too. If you cook the breasts just briefly and concentrate on developing the flavors in the sauce (make sure you incorporate a good and rich chicken stock) you should achieve great results! Of course my preference is for thighs, the taste is richer.

  14. Simply Life says:

    Oh yum, I love just thinking about the mix of these flavors – sounds great!

  15. Azita says:

    This is one of my favorite dishes. looks very delicious, I can almost taste it! Sometimes, I make it with chicken breasts but I prefer the thighs too.

  16. cuisinetouria says:

    sounds so delicious I like chicken with rice
    Thanks for visiting

  17. agnes says:

    Cette recette me donne très envie.
    Merci pour ton passage et message sur mon blog.

  18. Mona says:

    Very interesting dish! I have never cooked rice soaked in yogurt. All the flavors are making my mouth water.

  19. spice says:

    Looks yummy….sure it taste yummy too…

  20. Simone says:

    Great blog!!!
    Congratulations! Tank you

  21. Carole Wilson says:

    Poulet aux prunes is Chicken with plumbs. Pruneaux in French is prunes in English. Is the original recipe with plumbs or prunes?

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