Updated: Dec 14, 2019
My take on Nigel Slater's Twice As Nice chicken
You may not already know this but I'm a massive fan of watching reruns of classic cookery programmes on the Food Network, and recently, to fill in the space before 'proper TV' starts (and while I was ironing) I watched Nigel Slater doing his softly spoken and delicious thing. My husband pointed out that he cooks almost everything in the same Le Creuset dish as I do, so I feel his cooking is my type of cooking.
His Twice As Nice Chicken came on screen and I almost burnt a hole through the ironing board - it looked amazingly tempting and easy enough to do. So here goes... my take on this almost biryani-style dish, which is imbued with gentle spices and would be perfect for a cosy supper or even summer lunch served with lots of watercress salad perhaps?
You need to start by roasting a chicken - so yes, there is that - but let's say you've roasted one, or popped to Waitrose and got one of the rotisserie ones. Or you could poach a couple of breasts. I did think about getting some chicken thighs and cooking them, but oddly I think the breast meat works better in this dish.
Here's the main ingredients (FYI, I'm starting a new thing and just bolding the ingredients as I go along... let's see if it works), and luckily I managed to forage most of them from the pantry, actually making this quite an easy meal to cobble together as long as you're not a slave to finding exactly the same golden sultanas as Nigel used etc etc. But let's face it, larder foraging is all about making substitutions and getting away with it, I mean finding a new and delicious variation.
Once you have a roasted chicken to hand, start by cooking some brown rice. I used a nice brown and wild basmati mix, but you can use any brown rice. Nigel suggests rinsing it about three times, which I did... who knows if it helped, but it was plenty sticky enough so Lord knows what it might have been like without rinsing. Cook the rice with a stick or two of cinnamon, a couple of bay leaves, the insides of crushed cardamom and some cloves. Much like the damson jam I made, count in the cloves and count them out again. Also, Nigel just said to crush the cardamom pods, but I didn't want to put the husks in - just the nice little black seeds.
While your rice cooks to pack instructions, collate the rest of the ingredients in your hand-painted, lugged-back from Morocco bowl. (ha ha - no really). I used chicken breast meat, chopped dried apricots, sultanas and pistachios (luckily I had a pack of pistachios I'd bought in Lidl a while ago and even though they had sat around for ages in the pantry and were technically two months past their sell-by date, they were fine). Herbs are the next big thing - lots of chopped dill (yes, I know, not a common one, but hang on in there, it really works) and flat-leaf parsley. Toss this lot all together and then once the rice is cooked, toss it all together too (having tried to count out the number of cloves you added, and of course taking out the cinnamon and bay).
This was absolutely delicious with the warmth of the cinnamon and delight of the odd crunch of cardamom seed, mixed in with the savoury chicken and rice and sweetness from the fruit. My only criticism is that it went cold quite quickly (all that tossing with cold ingredients in a cold bowl and served on cold plates) so I'd recommend warming plates if possible and serving immediately. Or, as suggested above, make a virtue of the quick cooling and serve it in summer with a salad. It's also meant to be served with a yogurt and mint concoction, but I forgot the mint and the garden wasn't yielding, so we just dolloped the fresh yogurt on the side as you do need a bit of tang and sauciness.
Obviously full credit to Nigel Slater for this one. And the Food Network for making ironing much more enjoyable..
As discussed, don't be a slave to the exact ingredients, that's the joy of larderthenlife cooking. I was tempted to throw in some dates as Nigel had recommended cherries if you have them (I thought it was all getting a bit weird at that point tbh). Also I reckon walnuts or macadamias would add the crunch that the pistachios did. I think the rice is the important bit - cooking that with the cinnamon sticks and cardamom was the real taste-giver and the rest can he adapted.