Chicken Firuzabad with fluffy rice

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This is my improvised version of a delicious dish we had for lunch at the Governor’s house: aromatic chicken with fruit, almonds and delectably light rice. If you can find pomegranate molasses, do use it for its authentic sour-sweet taste and added colour.

Ingredients

  • 250 g basmati rice
  • 2 onions
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 medium chicken joints
  • 50 g unskinned almonds
  • 75 g dried apricots, halved
  • 50 g pitted prunes, halved
  • 2 rounded teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 600 ml chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (optional)
  • sea salt, black pepper

Method

At least an hour before you start cooking the chicken, put the rice in a sieve, rinse under running water, then turn into a bowl, add 1 tablespoon salt and cover with warm water. Leave on one side.

Peel the onions and chop fairly small. Melt 25 g of the butter with the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole over a medium heat. Add the onions and stir around for several minutes until soft and browned, then remove to a plate using a slotted spoon. Keep on one side.

Turn up the heat slightly, add the chicken joints and brown well on each side. Then return the onions to the casserole and add the almonds, apricots and prunes. Sprinkle on the ground cinnamon and a generous grinding of black pepper, then pour in the stock. Put the lid on and bring to the boil, then lower the heat. Simmer very gently for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is tender.

Meanwhile, bring a fairly large saucepan of salted water up to the boil.

Drain the soaked rice, add it to the boiling water and boil briskly for 4-6 minutes only; the rice should still be slightly underdone. Drain the rice into a large sieve, rinse through with running water and leave on one side.

When the chicken joints are cooked, lift them out with a slotted spatula and set aside on a plate. Then briskly boil the contents of the uncovered casserole for a few minutes, stirring now and then to prevent sticking, until the liquid is well reduced to a thick and syrupy sauce. If using pomegranate molasses, stir it in at this stage. Spoon the mixture onto the plate with the chicken. Wash out and dry the casserole dish.

Melt the remaining 25 g butter gently in the clean casserole, stir in the drained par-cooked rice and arrange the chicken joints on top, spooning the thick fruit and nut sauce over each joint as you do so. Finally, cover the casserole with a tea-towel, put the lid tightly on and tie the corners of the cloth over the lid to keep them from burning. Cook over the lowest possible heat for about 20 minutes until the rice is fluffy and tender.