I really love a good breading mixture. This one’s just great – it’s seasoned with lemon zest and freshly ground pepper, so it’s really fresh and zingy. I’m sure there are non-fried things just as crispy and delicious as this, but I’ve yet to find out what they are.
To serve four, you’ll need:
4 chicken breasts, without skins
8 tablespoons olive oil (choose a really fruity one)
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 clove of garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Grated zest of a lemon
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1.5 kg fresh ripe tomatoes
3 large onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 handful fresh basil
1 handful fresh oregano
1 mild red chilli
1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 large knob butter, plus extra to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and marinade it overnight in the olive oil, lemon juice, salt garlic and ten turns of the peppermill.
Here comes the tedious bit – peel and seed the tomatoes. (This is very easy but takes a while – use a knife to make a little cross in the skin at the bottom of the tomato, then pour over boiling water and leave for ten seconds. Fish the tomato out with a slotted spoon. You’ll find the skin will come away easily. Slice open to remove the seeds.) Chop the tomato flesh and set aside in a bowl. If you are pressed for time, use tinned tomatoes. They won’t be quite as good, but they’ll still be pretty darn tasty.
Dice the onions and chop the garlic finely, and fry in a large knob of butter until translucent and fragrant. Add the tomatoes and finely chopped chilli to the saucepan and stir to combine everything. Bring to a very low simmer, and reduce (this will take more than an hour) to half its original volume or a little less. Bring the vinegar and sugar to the boil in a small pan and stir it into the sauce. Add the oregano and season with salt and pepper. Taste to check whether you need more salt or sugar. Add another knob of butter for a more mellow flavour if you like.
Combine the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, chilli flakes and a tablespoon of freshly ground pepper in a large bowl. When the sauce is nearly reduced, bread the chicken by removing the pieces from the marinade, dipping in the beaten egg, and rolling in the breadcrumb mixture until each piece is nicely coated with the crumbs and aromatics. Heat a large knob of butter and three tablespoons of olive oil together in a non-stick frying pan, and slide the breaded chicken pieces in when the oil is very hot. Cook for about 5 minutes each side, until the chicken is golden and crisp.
Serve the chicken and its tomato sauce with buttered tagliatelle or some basmati rice mixed with a knob of butter and a small handful of parmesan.