I’ve been baking chicken and rice together for quite some time. The comfort of knowing 2/3rds of my meal is tinkering away in the oven when all I then need to do is rustle up some veg on a stove top provides a comfort I welcome with both arms.
But this version, with the spooky drama of gently spiced black rice pillowing beneath the chicken is glorious.
It’s a gory sight to see half cooked chicken floating about in blood orange coloured broth with morsels of ebony rice swirling about, but the theatre of lifting off the steaming lid at the end makes the gore a sight to behold.
Not only is this dish an extreme comfort for the cook but it’s a joy for the eater. The chicken gets a sexy sear in the pan to seal off the edges and lock in flavour but then it both braises and boils in oven, meaning you get both the juicy, charred up skin in addition to the soft bellied meat that falls off the bone when prodded.
And the rice? Plumped up and boisterous, it’s a gloomy sight to see but an encapsulating one, sweeter than you dare imagine with its dark soul. This meal is a joy.
Preheat the oven to 190c and boil a kettle.
In a deep, wide cast iron pan (that comes with a tight fitting lid) gently heat up some olive oil.
Toss in some chopped onions and some finely sliced garlic. Add a little salt and cook until the onion loses its raw edge.
Scatter in about a ¼ teaspoon of dried chilli flakes and a teaspoon each of cumin and paprika. Stir these into the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until the oils start turning a vibrant orange.
Create some space in the centre of the pan and turn up the heat.
Now place some chicken pieces (on the bone still, I went for a mix of thigh and drumsticks) in the centre of the pan and salt/pepper them. Let them sit for about a minute or two until the bottoms have begun to brown.
Turn them over and repeat on the other side. Stir everything about a little so the chicken adopts the glossy orange varnish of the spices.
Now grab a jug and fill it up to about 100ml with black rice. In reality any rice will do, but I like the drama. Scatter this in and give the dry rice a stir in the pan with the chicken and onion/garlic mix.
Drop a chicken stock cube in the jug, fill it to 200ml with the boiled kettle and pour over the contents of the pan. It will crackle and sizzle. Be careful but ignore it.
Add a little salt to the liquid and a generous fistful of raisins (or dried cranberries would also be divine). Bring the pan to a bubble and once it starts bubbling, clamp on a lid.
Carefully – with oven mits or something! – transfer the whole pan to the oven. Bake everything for an hour.
After the hour, take the pan out of the oven, remove the lid and behold the ebony glory. Try and wrangle the chicken pieces on TOP of the rice and put back in the oven, uncovered for 10 minutes so that the chicken can crisp up.
After the 10 mins is up, take out of the oven, fluff up the rice, scatter with some chopped coriander and serve.
I serve it straight in the pan for people to fend for themselves, and I serve alongside some simple boiled mangetout drizzled with olive oil and a dusting of salt.
But no one would judge you just for chucking some leafy packet greens on a plate and calling it a day. Lord knows I have.
PS – any leftover rice makes an excellent stir fry in a day or so with some chopped up vegetables.
Just heat the rice all the way through and you’re good to GO.