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Chicken From Tallinn: A powerful, full-flavoured but not spicy dish with the taste of the sun that we sorely need at this time of the year.

Danielle Matar/The Globe and Mail

A powerful, full-flavoured but not spicy dish with the taste of the sun that we sorely need at this time of the year. Prepare the dish until it is ready for the oven and then bake when needed. Estonian food is based on the land and the sea. They grow wonderful vegetables in Estonia, the mushroom market was a sight to behold. It has many international influences but lately more from the Nordic countries. However to be truly Estonian, serve with black rye bread.

Servings: 4

Ready time: 1 hour


1 head garlic, separated into cloves

1 1/2 lb (750 g) boneless skinless chicken thighs

1/2 tsp ground fennel

1/2 tsp chili flakes

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pancetta

3 tbsp olive oil

4 leeks, white and light green parts only, well washed

1/2 cup red wine

1 1/2 cups drained canned tomatoes, chopped

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted, halved

1 tbsp finely chopped preserved lemon or 1 tsp grated lemon zest

4 cups packed baby spinach

4 caper berries


Preheat oven to 400 F.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Remove root end from garlic cloves and add to water. Boil for 2 minutes. Drain and peel garlic cloves. Reserve.

Cut thighs in half. Sprinkle with fennel, chili flakes, rosemary, salt and pepper. Slice leeks on a diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces.

Heat oil in a large oven-proof skillet over high heat. Brown chicken in batches, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and reserve.

Add pancetta to pan and cook for 1 minute. Reduce skillet heat to medium-low. Add garlic cloves and leeks, and sauté 5 to 7 minutes or until soft. Add red wine and bring to boil, reduce by half. Add tomatoes and stock, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add olives and preserved lemon and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in spinach. Return chicken to skillet.

Transfer to oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in centre. Sprinkle with parsley. Top each portion with a caper berry.

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