Chicken in Pine Nut & Saffron Stew

Let’s learn about a new technique about how to thicken and flavour a sauce.

If you are like me, you probably thicken your sauces using flour or corn starch but I have recently discovered a new technique. The Spanish use “picada”, a paste that is added to the sauce at the last minute. More accurately, it comes from the Catalan cuisine.

There are three ingredients that are necessary to form a true picada: nuts, starch and liquid. The liquid can be stock, water or oil. Bread is used for the starch but biscuits/cookies have been known to appear in recipes. Nut wise, the most common ones used are almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts and sometimes a combination of them are thrown into the mix.

These ingredients form the base of the picada but now the fun starts by adding a horde of spices and herbs like garlic, saffron, parsley, cinnamon and cumin. All of it gets swished in a food processor to form a paste which is then added to the sauce in the last few minutes before serving. Be careful though, don’t overheat it or it will overcook and separate, which we certainly don’t want!

What I like about this method is that a bunch of fresh, new flavours get added to a stew which otherwise would have gotten lost in the cooking process. A picada is definitely something the serious cook should have in his arsenal!

Download and/or print the recipe! Click HERE.

Chicken in Pine Nut & Saffron Stew
Serves 10
Preparation Time: 20 minutes – Cooking Time: 3 hrs
  • 60ml (2 fl oz/4 tbsp) olive oil
  • 40g (1½ oz/¼ cup) pine nuts
  • 1 thick slice bread, crusts removed and cut into pieces
  • 2.5ml (½ tsp) ground cinnamon
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 chicken legs
  • 2 brown onions, finely chopped
  • 125ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) white wine
  • 375ml (13 fl oz/1½ cups) chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice
  • 2 egg yolks
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
  2. 2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large heavy-based flameproof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add the pine nuts and bread and lightly fry for about 3 minutes, or until golden. Remove and drain on paper towels. When cooled slightly, put in a mortar or food processor; add the cinnamon, saffron, garlic and half the parsley and pound or process to a coarse, crumbly consistency.
  3. Heat the remainder of the oil in the casserole over medium heat and brown the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate.
  4. Add the onion to the casserole and cook for 5 minutes, or until translucent.
  5. Return the chicken pieces to the casserole with the wine, stock, bay leaf and thyme, cover and place in the oven.
  6. After 30 minutes lower the heat to 130°C/fan 110°C/265°F/gas mark ½ and cook for another 2 hours.
  7. Remove the chicken and cover to keep warm.
  8. Add the pine nut paste to the casserole and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice, egg yolks and remaining parsley.
  9. Return the casserole to the stovetop and stir over very low heat until just thickened slightly (do not allow to boil or the sauce will split).
  10. Season to taste, return the chicken to the casserole and gently warm through before serving.
Serving Suggestion
  • Serve with rice and your favourite steamed vegetables.

Check out what other bloggers did with chicken:

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  1. says

    Saving this! Egg yolks in a stew??? Totally new. Oh, and there’s a huge pine nut shortage/recall/contamination issue here in the States. Pine nuts are ridiculously expensive. It may be a while before this recipe is tested.

  2. says

    How fascinating!! I’ve never made a picada but I’ve been cooking with nuts of all sorts lately, and this is a fabulous addition. Thanks very much for this recipe. :-)

  3. Lucy says

    This was absolutely delicious!! Though I only got three serves out of it because it was soooo good! 😉 I added a cinnamon stick to the baking process, next time I think I’ll add more of the flavours there vs in the picada so that they go throughout the chicken.

    It was like making a pesto with the pinenuts and bread … smelled wonderful. I added some extra toasted pinenuts at the end too. It thickened up perfectly and the fresh lemon juice just lifted it up.

    Thanks for sharing such an interesting recipe.

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