Chicken with red Camargue rice and peas

The Camargue is an area at the mouth of the River Rhône in France. Geographically it forms the delta of the river and is part of the département of Bouches-du-Rhône. It is a wetlands area of huge scientific and biological importance.Rice has been grown in the Camargue for centuries, with a large expansion of the area under cultivation during the 19th century. Most of the rice produced in France comes from the Camargue and modern red rice is a cross-pollinated variety that arose from naturally-occurring wild red rice and cultivated white rice. It was first discovered in the 1980s.

It is pretty similar to brown rice and Thai black rice and is sold as a healthy alternative to ordinary white rice.

This dish used a mixture of red rice and wild rice (which is actually not really rice, it is a kind of water grass), but apart from that the ingredients were pretty much the same as for Arroz con Pollo; chicken, chorizo, red peppers, garlic, onions, peas, pimenton, saffron, chicken stock, salt and pepper.

I first coloured the chicken in some olive oil in an oven-proof pan, then fried the chorizo and vegetables in the same pan and added the rice and the various seasonings. When this was all nicely amalgamated, I poured in the stock and placed the chicken on top.

With the lid on, this went into the oven at 170C for about 40 minutes. Then the lid came off for a further 15 minutes to brown off the chicken skin. There was still some stock left, so the dish wasn’t completely dried out.

As you can see, the rice doesn’t cook up like Calasaparra, risotto or ordinary long grain white rice. In fact, I’d say that it looks somewhat uninspiring. However, it tastes pretty good. It has a nutty flavour, which worked well with the rich, earthy flavours of smoked pimenton and chorizo and was a decent accompaniment to the chicken.

I think that next time I use this rice, I’ll probably cook it by itself and add flavours and any other ingredients once it is cooked.

My verdict on red rice: worth trying, but if you want a pilaff, a risotto or a paella, use the proper varieties.

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