The gift of being a food writer is that any piece of random paper you find in my apartment will probably have some form of recipe scrawled over it.
Ideas for recipes, half written recipes, trials gone wrong, old recipes revamped, ingredients I want to try, recipes I never want to try again… any given piece of paper you find near me will act as a relic of food ideas past, present and future.
Usually my recipes are guided by greed and necessity, but sometimes life can provide it’s own inspirations that skew the strategy and against your better judgement (writers are rigid people!) you just have to give your creativity over to the unforeseen beauty of chance.
This particular meal is the chance birthchild of two recipes that were scrawled in the back of a notebook I had stashed away under my bed, which I stumbled upon when I was looking for an altogether different notebook.
Any writers out there that feel this pain? Every drawer, every box, every cupboard is just books, notebooks and paper!
Anyway, I found in the notebook an old, old, old recipe I wrote for chicken breasts which were marinated in mustard and lemon before fried. The concept was there for something truly delicious but I have moved on from frying chicken breasts, but the concept was something I wanted to revisit.
On the next page was a wild rice dish which was infused with different nuts and fruit but for some reason which escapes me, the word PISTACHIOS was underlined as good four or five times. I can only assume I was either very enthusiastic about pistachios at the time, or I didn’t include them and wanted a forceful reminder.
Either way, I decided to combine both recipes and create a pistachio laced pilaf that goes with a lemon baked chicken. Easy. I love when recipes like this come together.
Drop two chicken legs into ziplock bag.
Pour in a generous glug of olive oil, and squeeze in the juice of two lemons. Scatter in some black peppercorns and some salt.
Leave to marinade in the fridge for as long as you can muster, I did mine overnight.
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200c and when it’s booted up and ready to go, take your chickens out of their bags, place on a baking tray with an extra drizzle of oil, a scattering of salt and slip in the oven for 40 minutes.
While it bakes, make your pilaf.
Get yourself a wide frying pan with a lid and melt a dab of butter in it. Chop up a white onion as small as you have the patience for and throw into the melted butter. Add some salt and stir everything.
Rinse a cup of white rice under the tap in a sieve until the water starts running clear, this stops the rice becoming creamy and rice pudding-y later.
Empty this rice into the onions and mix together so that the rice gets coated in the butter. Throw in a few bay leaves. Break a vegetable stock cube over the rice and then pour over water from a recently boiled kettle. You want enough water to just cover the rice. Grate in the zest of the lemons you used for juice in the chicken marinade.
Stir everything and clamp on a lid and turn the heat down as low as it’ll go.
Leave this untouched for the rest of the chicken’s cooking time.
While the chicken and pilaf cook, bash up a big handful of pistachios. You can go the route of getting them in a bag still in their shells (take them out of their shells for Hell’s sake!) but you could also get one of those £1 tubs from Lidl where the work is already done for you.
Once the 40 minutes is up, take the chicken out of the oven and let it sit somewhere for a few minutes to calm down.
Take the lid off the pilaf, empty in a nice big handful of frozen peas. Put the lid back on for these to steam for 5 minutes while the chicken rests.
Once this time is up, using a fork, fluff the rice up so that the peas get all up in the mix. Scatter over the pistachios and a further sprinkle of salt.
I serve this family style by throwing the chicken on top of the rice in the pan and bringing the pan to the table, so we can serve ourselves our own chicken and take as much rice as we want.
Admittedly, this is a lot of rice for two people but I always take into account leftovers the next day. Don’t reheat rice more than once and make sure it’s piping hot.
I have to write that so that no one blames me when they keel over in the name of pistachio pilafs.