Spring is very much in the air. Daffodils are springing up all over the place, the sun is staying out longer, and, for the time being, there has been very little cloud cover (woop woop)! It's also the time of year when I look forward to going on holiday. Working in an office, I got used to taking a week off in the spring and then another couple in the summer. Sadly, catering is not that flexible.
Having said that, with plenty of notice, a nice trip can be planned. We all know a certain Tuscan hillside town is my immediate go-to destination. But I love going new places too. There are too many places in the world that I want to go to that I don't actually think I'll get to see them all. Maybe when I retire.
The main thing I love about travel is trying all the different food. We stopped in Malaysia on the way to New Zealand last year and we really ate like locals. We steered clear of the "Tourist Trap" and ate from stalls and markets. All the food was DELICIOUS. I'll be honest, we did go to a guidebook recommended street in Kuala Lumpur but by my reckoning, you can't not go to Jalan Alor if you're in KL. From a foodie point of view, its Malay heaven. Side note - you will need your own tissues and hand sanitiser if you find yourself needing the loo while you're dining. Luckily, I was prepared.
Anayway, that was a bit of an unexpected digression. One of the best things about Malaysian food was the spice. If you expected it to be spicy, it was. If it wasn't spicy, it was packed full of other flavours. Nothing we ate was bland. Another place I'd really like to visit one day is India. Imagine the flavours! I mean, we get pretty good Indian food here and in Abu Dhabi but to be surrounded by it every day. Oh yum.
So this recipe isn't Indian or Malaysian but is is spicy. Very spicy. So I cooled it down with some salsa verde instead of the usual yoghurt. See what you think. If you're a spice fan like me, you'll absolutely love this dish.
Spicy Rice with Roast Chicken and Salsa Verde
6 chicken thighs
9 cloves of garlic
250g basmati rice
400g tinned tomatoes
1 tsp turmeric
600ml chicken stock
1 tbsp chilli powder (try this first and if you like it hotter add more)
Small bunch fresh dill (about 10 stalks)
Large bunch fresh chives (a good fistful)
Small bunch fresh basil (equivalent of a supermarket packet)
200ml olive oil plus extra
1tbsp salt plus extra
2 tbsp lemon juice
60g pine nuts
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Crush seven of the garlic cloves, leaving the skin on and put them in a roasting tray. Drizzle in some olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) and coat the chicken thighs in it. Place each thigh on top of a clove of garlic and sprinkle the top with a little bit of salt. Put them in the oven for 45 minutes.
Blitz together the other two garlic cloves (peeled), the herbs, the olive oil and the lemon juice. This is your salsa verde. Taste it because depending on how fresh your herbs are, you might need to add a little bit of something. It should be zesty but not overpoweringly so. If it's a bit flat, add more salt.
In a saucepan, add a tiny drizzle of olive oil and when it's hot, add the rice. Stir to coat it in the oil and add the turmeric and chilli. Again coat the rice in the spices, then add the tinned tomatoes. Stir so that the rice soaks up the liquid. Little by little, start adding the chicken stock. Treat it like a jumble or a risotto. Stir all the time, adding stock as you go. You may not need all the stock or you may need to top it up with a tiny bit of water - depends on the rice. Test the rice when you think it's done. If it's still a bit crunchy, add a little more stock and stir a bit longer. You don't want mushy rice but it absolutely must be cooked through.
The rice will be a little bit runny but try and get it so that it's not swimming. When the rice is done, the chicken should be too. If it's not brown, leave it in the oven for just a little bit longer. 45 minutes should be plenty though. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan and keep an eye on them. If you leave them for a second they will burn.
To serve, spread the rice on a platter and arrange the chicken on top. Drizzle over some of the salsa verde and serve the rest in a bow for people to help themselves. Sprinkle over the pine nuts and enjoy!