Chicken and Pilau
An Illustrated Recipe
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Today I will be sharing one of my Grandmother’s recipes, “Chicken and Pilau”. This recipe has really stood the test of time and is a firm favourite amongst everyone in my family. This isn’t a traditional curry in the sense that it is very light on the spice (only a teaspoon in fact). The pungent mix which is probably most similar to a Goan Jeerem Meerem (pronounced Jeery Meery) or a Mangalorean Bafat Masala is used sparingly as a little goes a long way. However, it is still incredibly distinctive and you know it’s there without being overpowered by it.
I’ve been eating this recipe since I can remember; in fact I can even remember scraping it around the plate when I was a child because I hated curries and just wanted to eat McDonald’s; a lot has changed since then! Whenever my cousins visit, this is the dish they look forward to, and it has even become my Irish Father’s signature dish, as he was taught it by my Mum and Grandma to broaden his cooking skills.
The prawn pilau is essential with this chicken recipe, it just isn’t the same with plain white rice, and of course, like all curries it is best made ahead of time and then warmed up for the flavours to really merge with each other. So without further ado; chicken and pilau:
First thing’s first, you need to make your spice blend.
In a cast iron or frying pan, heat the whole spices (cassia bark, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cloves and cumin seeds) on a low heat for a couple of minutes to bring out the aroma. Be careful not to burn them and shake the pan to move them around a bit. If you can’t find cassia in the supermarket, cinnamon sticks are fine.
Transfer the spices to a plate to cool down completely before blending.
In a coffee grinder, small blender, or pestle and mortar, grind the spices until coarse to break down the larger pieces of cassia/cinnamon.
Add the turmeric and Kashmiri chilli, and continue to grind until the mixture is finely ground. Set aside to use in the curry. You will only need 1 teaspoon so store the rest in an airtight container for next time.
Start by removing the skin from the chicken. I use bone-in thighs which I then cut in half through the bone. Sounds scary, but let me explain. Position your (sharp) knife in the middle of the thigh and using a mallet, bash the knife into the chicken, cutting it (hopefully) neatly in half. I haven’t cooked this recipe with whole thighs, but feel free to try it if you don’t have the utensils to cut through the bone. I wouldn’t recommend using thigh fillets as the bone makes the chicken juicy.
On to the other ingredients. Peel and chop a potato into 1 inch cubes and set aside in some cold water until later. Finely dice the onion and grate the garlic and ginger. Transfer your tinned tomatoes to a container and mash them with a potato masher.
In a large saucepan, heat up a couple of tablespoons of a neutral oil and then sauté the onion, with a pinch of salt(prevents burning) on a low heat for 15 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and 1 teaspoon of the spice mix, stir together and cook for a minute. If this sticks to the bottom of the pan you can add a splash of water to loosen it.
Add the tinned tomatoes with 1.5 teaspoons of sugar (brown or demerera is fine) and simmer this for 10 minutes.
Add the chicken thighs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon bouillon powder and lemon juice. You may not need all the juice from half a lemon - add some and you can add more later.
Cook on a low heat with the lid on for 15 minutes, and then add the potato for a further 20 minutes of cooking. With 5 minutes cooking time left, add a large handful of chopped coriander and a green chilli cut into thirds. Check the seasoning, and adjust the salt, sugar and lemon according to your taste buds. Leave to sit for a while; ideally a few hours and reheated, and then serve with pilau.
Start by washing your rice in 3 changes of cold water.
In a saucepan, place your rice, oil, peppercorns, cloves, cumin seeds and turmeric. Cover with cold water, and then add salt and bouillon powder. As we will be using the boil and drain method, you want to put much more than double water to rice. 4 cups is a rough measurement, but just treat it as though you were boiling pasta.
Bring the water up to a boil, and then turn the heat down to medium. The water won’t all absorb into the rice so you will need to keep an eye on it. The rice should take between 8 and 10 minutes and after about 5 minutes add your peas and frozen prawns (I use raw, but cooked is fine too). Check your rice - once it is cooked but still al dente, turn the heat off and carefully sieve the contents of your pan, make sure all of the water is drained and then transfer it back into the pan and put the lid on. Let this sit for about 10 minutes and then serve with the chicken.
I hope you all enjoy this recipe and don’t forget to share your images and tag me on instagram @emmadinizryan if you make my Granny’s Chicken and Pilau. I look forward to seeing all of your creations!