Catalan chicken with picada

Diana Henry shows you how to thicken a casserole the traditional Catalan way with a paste of bread, sweet biscuit and nuts
By Diana Henry
Catalan chicken with picada
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time:
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Effort: easy


  • 8 chicken thighs, (or a mixture of chicken joints), skin on
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 300 ml chicken stock
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme
  • 25 g pine kernels, toasted
  • 75 g raisins, soaked in warm dry sherry until plump
  • 1 large handfuls flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

For the picada

  • 1 sweet biscuit, (such as Rich Tea)
  • 25 g country bread
  • 25 g pine kernels
  • 75 ml dry white wine
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Tips and Suggestions

picada is a miraculous thing; a centuries old all-in-one thickener and flavourer and one of the cornerstones of Catalan cooking. A slightly varying mixture of ingredients fried bread, nuts, olive oil, spices and herbs (and sometimes even dark chocolate) is pounded together in a mortar and pestle and stirred into a dish 5 or 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time. I just love the way it works, giving you a dish cloaked in thick juices without any recourse to flour, and impregnated with the most unexpected flavours that somehow seem to meld together. Its a good idea and one I use with not-thick-enough stews from other countries too. (Diana Henry, Crazy Water Pickled Lemons)


1. Season the chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan and brown the chicken, just until it has a good colour, but is not cooked all the way through. Remove the chicken and set aside.

3. Add the onion to the same pan and cook until soft and translucent.

4. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn the heat down and gently cook the tomato mixture for a further 15 minutes until its a thick purée.

5. Add the stock to the tomato mixture and bring it to the boil. Return the chicken to the pan with any juices that may have leached out, and add the thyme, toasted pine nuts and raisins. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook gently for about 25 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through.

6. For the picada: grind the biscuit, bread and pine nuts in a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor, gradually adding the white wine and olive oil until well combined.

7. Add the picada to the chicken with a little chopped parsley and stir well. Cook very gently for a further 5 minutes while the picada thickens the juices.

8. Scatter the chicken with more chopped parsley, to serve.

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