I have a regular rollcall of weeknight suppers that tend to be based around what my kids will or will not eat. This has been getting a little boring of late. There are only so many shapes and sauces that one can apply to pasta and I have stared the last one down for today at least, with this dish. Soft rice flavoured gently enough to suit the fussiest of small mouths, tender chicken easy to shred. A meal that we can all eat. Result.
Now I call this casserole Persian though it is in fact Persian by way of France and Wales. A simple one-pot meal that came together rather well as a fusion of back of the fridge vegetables (Leeks and Olives) with some of my favourite spices – Saffron, Za’atar, Sumac and Piment D’Esplettes. Za’atar and Sumac, spices widely used in the Maghreb, can be sourced from local ethnic food stores and even some mainstream stores such as Waitrose. Sumac powder (derived from crushed dried Sumac berries) has a lemony tang and is in fact one of the key components of the Za’atar spice blend which also contains Sesame seeds, Thyme, Marjoram and Oregano. Piment D’esplettes a smoky sweet mildly hot chilli from the Basque region of France, that I sprinkle liberally over most pasta dishes and other savouries.
The result is soft golden rice in a rich stock, gentle chilli heat and a salty sour hint from olives and the Persian spices. The gentle oven cooking melts the garlic and leek into the spiced sauce, infusing the chicken with juicy flavour. For a weeknight supper, this is easy to construct, and of course to adapt for other geographical variations depending on what lurks in your refridgerator.
This is a straightforward one pot dish, perfect for a midweek supper. In essence, you will sear the meat, cook off the vegetables with the spices and seasoning, then throw it all back in with some rice and stock and bake it till the rice is cooked.
Some lemon slices pressed these into the top for a gentle citrus tint to the broth as it cooks.
You will be rewarded by a tender spiced chicken on soft, delicious rice with a scent and flavour that is certainly more Persian than Welsh. It did go down well with the family, even my fussy toddler.
- 180g (1 cup) Long Grain Rice (I used basmati)
- 500ml (2 cups) Chicken or Vegetable Stock
- 1 leek chopped finely
- 1 clove garlic chopped finely
- 1 red pepper chopped
- 1 yellow pepper chopped
- 2 Breasts of Chicken or 4 chicken thighs
- 1 Lemon
- 80g chopped olives (I used a combination of black and green)
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 teaspoon Za'atar
- 1 teaspoon Sumac powder
- half to one teaspoon Piment D'esplettes (you can use paprika if you cannot get Piment)
- Half a tablespoon Olive Oil
- Preheat the oven to 160DegC
- Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. If your casserole dish can work on the stove all the better if not have a casserole dish standing by.
- Add the chicken - chopped pieces of the breastmeat or the thighs and brown them then take them out and put to one side.
- Then add in the leeks, peppers and cook till they are a little softened, add the olives, garlic and the spices and seasoning.
- Add in the rice and stir to coat the rice with the mix of vegetable, spice and oil.
- Add the chicken pieces and then pour in the stock.
- Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the stock.
- Give the pot a stir to combine the ingredients and then top with some lemon slices from the remaining half.
- Cover the pan (or put all the ingredients into a casserole dish and cover with lid or foil).
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is soft and the stock has been absorbed.