Ooft, it’s been quite a few weeks! Keeping a food blog is tough when you’re too ill to eat or cook, hence the absence of posts here for a while. Feeling fragile, in combination with the weather (the snow is still falling), means that I’ve been craving comfort food. I need a big, warming hug in a bowl and chicken rice is the answer.
I loved chicken rice from the first time I tried it a few years ago. It’s such an unpretentious, clean dish with so many layers of subtle spice that I had to know how it was made. My cousin promised me that he’d seek out the family recipe, but it appears to be such a closely guarded secret that I’ve had to work it out myself through trial and error. I’m sure I’ll revise it again in the future, in the meantime – here’s my recipe.
a whole chicken, about 1.5kg
a shallot, peeled and halved
a stalk of lemongrass, bruised with the back of a knife
2 star anise
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and bruised
4 thick slices of root ginger
about 12 white peppercorns
salt, to taste
½ cup rice per person, rinsed well
a red chilli, sliced
spring onions, sliced
- Put the chicken in a large saucepan with the shallot, lemongrass, anise, garlic, ginger, pepper and salt and cover with cold water. Bring it to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Cover and remove from the heat and leave the chicken to cook gently in the residual heat for about an hour.
- When cooked through, remove the chicken from the pan and strain the broth.
- Heat a little oil in a pan (one with a well-fitting lid) and add the rice. Stir to coat each grain of rice with the oil then add 1 cup of hot broth for every ½ cup of rice. Cover (if your lid doesn’t fit well, use a sheet of baking paper or foil to reinforce the lid) and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Leave for 15 minutes, then remove completely from the heat and leave covered for a further 5 minutes.
- Remove the lid from the rice and fluff it with a fork.
- Serve the rice with slices of poached chicken, red chilli and spring onion. You can add a few spoonfuls of remaining broth to add an extra layer of soothing fragranced warmth to the dish.
Traditionalists will know that this is usually served with a chilli sauce, but that recipe remains firmly under family lock-and-key, so I make do with the fresh chilli.