The horrifying reality of life in the Shire (other than the utter peace and clam and lack of ambulance sirens in comparison with life in the middle of Edinburgh) is my family’s unrelenting consumption of meat. I have been veggie (or, to irritate, flexitarian) while at university; my stance being that if I wouldn’t kill it, I wouldn’t be able to eat it… In addition to a certain squeamishness about meat-eating, I am also a realist, and realistically the way the population/planet is going, the quantity of meat the western world currently consumes is not sustainable. 1/3 of global crop production goes straight back into livestock. Not. Sustainable. That’s 1/3 of global crops which could be feeding people. Then on top of THAT, we also waste 1/3 of the food we produce for human consumption. Which is just ludicrous. So whilst I am not going to tell you that this is a disgusting dish, and that you should stop reading instantly, I will say two things: First, it is not essential to make it with chicken (see substitutes listed), and second if you make it, eat it. ALL. 🙂
I don’t tend to cook with a recipe book to hand, and so this started out with rice and peppers, and chicken… and very little plan. Without thinking much I added biryani spice to the rice before deciding that this was going to be a dish with Spanish influences… so here we have indian-spanish fusion which has bloody well worked!
For 3 people you will need:
300g Rice [add 2 cups water, 1/2 vegetable stock cube, 2 teaspoons biryani spice]
1/2 a lemon
Small handful of chopped coriander (optional)
6 cloves of garlic, grated
1/2 yellow and 1/2 red pepper, cut into strips
1 tin plum tomatoes
2 teaspoons smoked/hot paprika
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon marmalade (trust meeeee!)
6-8 strips of chicken (please, pretty please, check welfare standards/don’t buy shit chicken)
Salt and pepper
6 table spoons Oil
Start with the rice. Measure out the rice, place in a pan (which you know has a lid that fits!). I use cups of rice to measure, and then it’s simply a case of doubling the number of cups of rice to get the number of cups of water needed. So if you have 2 cups rice, you need 4 cups water? Savvy? Yes. Now add the biryani spice and the stock, increase the heat to bring the water to a boil, at which point reduce the heat and cover with a lid. Set a timer for 17 minutes.
Heat 3 table spoons of oil in one large frying pan and then add the peppers. Cook on the reasonably high heat until they start to soften. Then reduce the heat and add the garlic. Cook together for 3-4 minutes (be careful not to let the garlic burn) before adding the paprika, cinnamon and turmeric. Add the tomatoes, and then fill the tin half way, swirl to remove residual tomato and add to the pan. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer. Now turn your attention to the chicken (if using).
Heat the remaining 3 table spoons of oil in a second frying pan. Once hot, carefully arrange the strips of chicken so that all are evenly spaced and in contact with the base of the pan. This is to seal the meat; leave for 2 minutes on each side before turning. Once lightly browned on each side transfer to the stew pan.
With the chicken added, leave to simmer for a further 5-10 minutes until the sauce has reduced, and the chicken is cooked through (cut in half to check). Stir in the marmalade and add salt and pepper to taste.
The rice should have been cooking for at least 15 minutes by now – once the timer goes, turn the heat off, and leave the rice to stand for 2-3 minutes. This allows any excess water to be absorbed. Then gently fork through the rice to separate the grains, add the chopped coriander and lemon juice, and you’re ready to go!
*** If you’re feeling lazy, just make the stew and eat with bread and butter! ***
Alternatives to chicken:
- 400g tin of chickpeas. Add once the sauce has reduced, and leave long enough to heat through
- Roasted aubergine. Slice an aubergine into circular discs, spread these out on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt. This draws out the water in the aubergine, which is bitter. Allow 5 minutes at least for the water to form beads on the surface of the slices and then pat dry. Tip excess salt of the baking tray, spread out the salted-aubergine discs, and sprinkle with thyme, paprika, salt and pepper, and then drizzle with oil and scatter 2-3 bay leaves (torn up roughly) across slices. Roast at 180˚C for 25-30 minutes, turning once half way. Add the roasted aubergine to the tops of plates once stew is served.
- Grilled halloumi. Slice cheese into rectangles around half a cm thick. Grill under high heat for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown. Serve on top of stew.