A good hearty rice meal to kickstart the week.
There’s essentially 3 stages for preparation: 1) Boil the rice, 2) Marinate and cook the chicken, 3) Prepare the veggies for stuffing and assembling. … and well, then there’s assembling (3.1 if you really must).
I fractioned this recipe down to 500g chicken (instead of the 1,5kg chicken that the recipe stipulates). This worked out perfectly well with making use of my mummy’s marinated chicken that she passed on to me. I swear, when I cooked this home-marinated chicken, I missed my mum so much. Her unique mum-spicing, marinade…created such stirs in my heart and my soulofthehome – all basic spices and I am certain even if she spelled it out to the finest detail of what she added and how, it just would-not-smell-the-same! The smell, the taste – divine!
While the chicken was busy cooking ’til done, I had another pot boiling the rice until the kernels were swollen and brittle. Thus far, as per the recipe’s method – Step 1, I used mum’s marinated chicken as opposed to the recipe’s marinade. Step 2, I did as-is, and same with step 3 (only I landed up adding a bit more tomato to the chicken, so that I have a lot of gravy/serva at the end, but this too still was not sufficient).
At this point, with the green pepper and tomatoes (I used 1 green pepper, 1 red pepper (for colour contrast) and then 2 tomatoes – all halved horizontally and deseeded. So few? Remember, I fractioned this recipe…). I slotted in my own step here, which was: I blanched these veggies once washed, halved & deseeded. I felt that the softer the veggies go in to the oven, the better they’ll turn out once the entire meal is steamed and served. Also, given the chicken’s fully cooked and rice just needs a steam, there’s very little time given for the veggies to soften well, really well, so might as well prepare them for showtime in the oven.
So, there’s cooked chicken in the gravy/serva, then there’s the boiled rice that’s been drained and set aside, and then there’s the halved veggie ‘baskets’….
Assembling went like this: layer some of the rice on the bed of your casserole dish (select a dish that is ovenproof and has a sealed lid, or one that will secure well with some foil and a lid so that steaming is effective) THEN, spoon the gravy/serva and chicken pieces into the veggie baskets and keep aside for now, THEN with the remainder of the chicken pieces & its gravy/serva, pour over the rice that’s layering the casserole dish. At this point, I swopped the layer around, instead: I THEN scattered frozen peas generously, THEN placed the veggie baskets on top, and THEN lastly scattered the last of the plain rice to cover the entire casserole.
At this point, are the extras that I landed up doing: I scattered more peas on top (for colour), threw a good, few handfuls of fried onions (recipe suggests this anyway) and poured some saffron water, strands-and-awl (saffron strands immersed in hot water) and then a sprinkling more of water (to activate the steaming process to fully cook the rice, and infuse the entire meal’s flavours altogether and heat the layers throughout). LAST: I dotted the final touches with dollops of ghee and sealed well with foil and secured with a lid.
Verdict: When following the recipe in the book, please take note of these essential tweaks that I believe will lead to a full-on successful meal: i) ensure that you add a good quantity of blended tomatoes to the chicken, so that you have sufficient gravy/serva when assembling. Keep it moist and yum! I added extra tomatoes, but will be adding a bit more so that there’s a lot more gravy/serva, ii) Blanching was not sufficient on the veggies I used, the tomatoes softened well, but the fleshy peppers were still harder than I had hoped for, I then had to remedy the meal and soften them (further) when serving leftovers. If blanching isn’t enough, then steam the veggies well until they’re quite softened (but retain their shape to act as veggie baskets), and iii) ensure that you sprinkle water once the assembling is complete, so that the steaming process in the oven is kickstarted with some h-two-oh! I will most definitely be making this again – but with tweaks i) & ii) in mind. Do NOT serve this without the mandatories: dhai + papri + achaar + boiled egg! They are must-accompaniments that makes rice meals amazing :)