Once again Ottolenghi comes to the rescue with this simple one pot meal of chicken with caramelised onions and cardamom rice. Whenever you’re stuck for something to cook and are looking for a recipe that’s succulent, tasty and deeply satisfying then you can’t do much better than this fragrant dish that’s subtlety spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and whole cloves, balanced by plenty of fresh herbs such as dill, parsley and coriander and given a sweet note by caramelised onions and dried barberries or currants.
But. Before we go on. I just want to make it clear that I have yet to use barberries. I’d love too but can’t get my hands on them so I use raisins instead. Barberries are a staple in Iranian cuisine, a key ingredient in certain wedding dishes where their sourness stands as a symbol of the fact that life isn’t always a bed of roses. How wonderful is that. A single ingredient telling a story within a dish. I’ve also skipped on the dill as my wife isn’t too keen on it – I on the otherhand adore it – but I’d love to throw a bunch of it in. Lift the dish even more.
Ingredients (serves 4)
40 g sugar
25 g barberries, or use currants
60 ml olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 kg skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs, or 1 whole chicken, quartered
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
2 long cinnamon sticks, broken in two
300 g basmati rice
550 ml boiling water
bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
bunch dill leaves, chopped
bunch coriander leaves, chopped
100 g Greek yogurt, mixed with 30 ml olive oil (optional)
Put the sugar and about three tablespoons water in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, add the barberries, and set aside to soak. If using currants, you don’t need to soak them in this way. Infact, if you’re using currants skip this step and the sugar altogether.
Meanwhile, heat half the olive oil in a large pan for which you have a lid over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has turned a deep golden brown. Transfer the onion to a small bowl and wipe the pan clean.
Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl and season with 1½ teaspoons each salt and black pepper. Add the remaining olive oil, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and use your hands to mix everything together well. Heat the frying pan again and place the chicken and spices in it. Sear chicken for 5 minutes on each side and remove from the pan (this is important as it par-cooks the chicken). The spices can stay in the pan, but don’t worry if they stick to the chicken. Remove most of the remaining oil as well, leaving just a thin film at the bottom. Add the rice, caramelised onion, 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper. Drain the barberries and add them as well. Stir well and return the seared chicken to the pan, pushing it into the rice.
Pour the boiling water over the rice and chicken, cover the pan, and cook over very low heat for 30 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, remove the lid, quickly place a clean tea towel over the pan, and seal again with the lid. Leave the dish undisturbed for another 10 minutes. Finally, add the herbs and use a fork to stir them in and fluff up the rice. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot or warm with yogurt mixture if you like.
Fantastic stuff. It really is.