Cocos with Shredded Chicken & Rocket

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Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

Allan Hall, a former ‘Atticus’ in the Sunday Times and a noted member of The Société des Gastronomes, in his middle years became very knowledgeable about wine and would frequently attend grand and prestigious tastings. If these happened to be in the West End of a lunch time, he might afterwards stop at The Colony Room Club in Dean Street for some cleansing and restorative draught on his way home. On one such occasion he astonished that club’s largely alcoholic denizens by announcing upon his arrival that he had just come from a mineral water tasting where all had been unanimous in voting Badoit ‘The Queen of Waters’, an observation which caused considerable hilarity.

Thinking of regal qualities and applying them to pulses, if Badoit is ‘The Queen of Waters’ then the cocos is ‘The King of Beans’. These uniformly oval haricots, about 1 cm/½ in across, are highly prized in Provence and their popularity means that they are invariably eaten fresh from the pod and are rarely dried. Ask your greengrocer if he can get hold of some or bully your supermarket manager on the subject. They will deny all knowledge but, then, whoever said being a cook was an easy option or that shopping was an unalloyed pleasure? Cocos are lovely as a vegetable in their own right, but in this combination they help turn what could be just another bean dish into something special. If rocket is unavailable, substitute spinach or other greens. You could accompany the dish with a glass of Badoit, but most would prefer a glass of wine as well.


  • 2 kg/ lb cocos in the pod
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 hot chilli
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 225 g/8 oz rocket
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 575 ml/1 pt chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • large handful of whole celery leaves, to garnish
  • extra-virgin olive oil, to dress



Shell the beans straight into a saucepan. You should end up with just under 1 kg/ lb of cocos. Peel the carrot, cut it in 4 lengthwise and push into the beans. Top and tail the onion and put whole and unpeeled in the pot, together with the unpeeled garlic cloves, the whole chilli, the celery stalk broken in half and the herbs.

Blanch and peel the tomatoes and add them whole. Add the vinegar and cover with cold water, film the surface with a little of the olive oil and bring to the boil.

Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper only when the beans are cooked. Premature salting of fresh beans will make their skins tough. Strain through a colander, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard everything except the beans.

Pick over and destalk the rocket. Blanch for 30 seconds in a large pan of rapidly boiling salted water. Refresh in cold water.

Brush the chicken joints with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.


Cook the chicken in a non-stick pan over a low heat for 15-20 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times until just resilient when prodded. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Bring the chicken stock and 575 ml/1 pt of the bean cooking liquid to a simmer. Add the beans and warm them through. Stir in the blanched rocket and warm for 1 minute.


Ladle the broth and beans into large warmed bowls. Slice the chicken breasts across at an angle. Distribute between the bowls. Gloss with a little extra-virgin olive oil and scatter over some celery leaves.

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