Friday, 19 March 2010

Chicken with coriander and spinach rice

I love rice. I grew up eating it and occasionally hating it, but I never knew as a fussy five-year-old that so many wonderful and exciting things could be made with it, nor even that rices other than jasmine rice existed. We ate it every day, with steamed fish and vegetables, the occasional bit of poached chicken and various other things. We didn't eat a lot else and I fought against it sometimes, especially when the tough old pak choi leaves would get stuck in my throat and make me gag. If we were ill and didn't feel like eating, we would have plain rice sprinkled with sesame oil and soy sauce, which was a wonderful, comforting thing. Even to this day I love the smell of it. But in general I was a terrible eater up until the age of six or seven, and mealtimes could be difficult, especially if it only involved boring fish and Chinese greens.

These days we carry five types of rice in our house at the same time and cook regularly with each of them. There is a whole world of things you can make to eat with it. But what I like best, especially when I want something wholesome, is a gently cooked rice dish with lots of vegetables in it. When I see pictures of rice with things in it, especially green things, I am sucked in every time. I like it flecked with bits of spinach and herbs, or as a mixed vegetable risotto or paella style with any old veg from the fridge thrown in and served with a wedge of lemon. So when I saw the photo of this dish (much better than mine above), I was instantly taken. I had to make it. This is the second time I've made it and it was even better this time. I don't know why. It is just lightly spicy but fragrant, and utterly moreish with the spiced yoghurt on the side. You could try making this without the chicken - maybe add half a diced onion to the vegetables for a bit more flavour instead.

This is a dish from 'Falling Cloudberries' by Tessa Kiros, taught to her by her Peruvian friend. I have adapted the recipe to serve roughly 2 people. I have used a small amount (only three thighs between two people) of boned chicken thighs without skin instead of pieces of chicken with bones in (if you want to use the latter, which would be nice, use pieces of a chicken cut into eighths and serve one or two pieces per person).

chicken (I used three boned thighs for two people. You might want more.)
1 carrot, finely diced
1/3 red pepper finely diced
a big handful of peas, fresh or frozen
1 garlic clove, chopped
50g spinach (I used frozen, and I always use more than this. I probably used nearly 100g! :-))
a handful of fresh coriander
170g long grain rice (Tessa uses short grain rice)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or if you don't have any, use half and half chilli powder and paprika)
olive oil
salt and pepper

for the yoghurt:
50ml yoghurt (that's a guess, I used three big dollops without measuring)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper

Brown the chicken pieces in light olive oil over a moderate-high heat until they are golden on the outside and nearly cooked through (this is especially important if they are on the bone or they won't cook through later). You have a choice here and it depends on your pan. I'd recommend browning it in a non-stick pan rather than a regular saucepan or something - makes your life a bit easier not to be anxious about things sticking! If the chicken has skin on you might be OK with just a regular pan. Set the chicken aside.

Meanwhile, either roughly chop the spinach and coriander in a food processor with a splash of water, or if you are using frozen spinach, defrost it, chop lightly and add the chopped coriander to it.

Now put some new oil into the pan you want to cook the rice in - a deep saucepan is good - or if you were already using the saucepan, discard the oil and add a splash of fresh oil. Add the garlic, and as soon as you can smell it add the carrots, peas and red pepper and cook gently for about 5 minutes to soften. Stir in the cayenne pepper and season well, then add the spinach and coriander mixture and stir for another minute or so. Now return the chicken to the pan, add one and a half cups of water and bring it to the boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes (you can do it for 10 if there are no bones) until the chicken is cooked. Take the chicken pieces out again and keep them warm. Add the rice to the pan, give it a stir, add one more cup of hot water and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes until it looks like the rice has absorbed most of the water. Turn the heat down to the lowest point, cover the pan and continue to cook for up to 15 minutes. Stir it only occasionally to check that it isn't sticking to the pan. If it looks dry but the rice isn't cooked yet, add a splash of water from a kettle. Check and adjust the seasoning towards the end.

Whilst the rice is cooking, mix the yoghurt, cumin and some salt and pepper in a bowl ready to serve.

Because I like my food hot, I like to put the chicken back into the pan to steam over the rice for the last few minutes. It's up to you! Once the rice is cooked and there is no liquid left in the pan, serve it with the chicken pieces on top and a big dollop of the spiced yoghurt on the side. If you like things hot, add a drizzle of chilli oil to finish.


  1. Nice! Happy new year to everyone, and a great 2011!

  2. Hi Haley. Happy New Year to you too!

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