Chicken, apricot and almond pilaf

This is, I suppose, a Persian-influenced dish rather than anything actually Persian. Chicken and apricot is a nice mixture and I added in some sautéed almonds for texture.

First I skinned, jointed and part-boned a chicken, using the carcass for stock, which I made with an onion, a carrot and a stick of celery, plus water. This would be used to cook the rice later.

The legs were cut into thighs and drumsticks, the wings were separated into two pieces and the breasts were cut into three. All the meat was coated lightly with flour.

First I sautéed some skinless almonds in olive oil in an oven- and hob-proof casserole. These were set aside to be used later.

Then I softened three sliced shallots and three crushed cloves of garlic in the same oil, with the addition of a large knob of butter, together with three bay leaves and a cinnamon stick.

When the shallots were softened and lightly coloured I added the meat and sealed it all over. I deglazed the pan with some white wine – not very Persian, I suppose, but a good thing for the overall flavour of the finished dish.

At this point I added in one lemon, cut into eighths, and enough Basmati rice to fill a measuring jug to the 300ml mark. When the rice was coated with oil, I seasoned with salt and pepper and added in 600ml of stock and brought this to a simmer.

This was them covered and the casserole placed into a 160C oven for about 30 minutes.

I steeped some saffron threads in milk. This would be added at the end of the cooking period together with some chopped semi-dried apricots and the almonds.

Once the rice was done, I added in the fruit and nuts and dribbled the saffron-infused milk over the rice and returned this to the oven for a further five minutes.

This was served from the casserole at the table, garnished with chopped parsley.


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