Occasional recipes: Paprika chicken with spicy red cabbage and beetroot

Haven’t done one of these for a very long time. I still feel a traitor to the childhood me when I serve up something with beetroot in it but trust me, it’s actually quite nice. Under the right circumstances. I.e. not boiled to within an inch of its life, like at school.


  • 3-4 chicken breast fillets. (If you get absolute slabs, like I did, experience shows you might want to slice them into thinner slabs …)
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 400g red cabbage, finely shredded nuked by food processor
  • 1 tsp crushed chillies
  • 250g beetroot, chopped. (Instructions from Waitrose say “fresh, scrubbed, trimmed and cut into matchsticks.” Ben says chopped. And have something to catch the drips, because opening and cutting up cooked beetroot is what badly planned open heart surgery must look like.)
  • paprika
  • 75g creme fraiche
Dust chicken breasts with paprika. Make several deep scores diagonally across the meat and fry chicken pieces in olive oil, scored side down. Reduce the heat to lowest setting and fry for 20 minutes, turning halfway through. (Be aware that the Waitrose notion of “lowest setting” might still be substantially higher than what your cooker goes down to.)
Meanwhile fry onion for about 5 minutes, add cabbage and chillies and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Add the beetroot, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.
Pile cabbage onto warmed serving plates, place a chicken fillet on top of each. Stir creme fraiche +1 tbsp water into pan juices, heat until bubbling and pour on top of chicken. Serve with buttered new potatoes.
At school I always found beetroot insufferably bland and often still do, despite my eyes having been opened as to the miracle that is borscht by a student trip to Moscow in 1987. But that same blandness and texture nicely complement and counteract the chillies. Trust me.
And if you can, follow this up with your wife’s apple and mince pie.