This is a recipe that divides the Bartimaeus-Rabbit household. I love it. Bartimaeus doesn't. I think it's as a result of our differing South Asian backgrounds - Muslim Bengali cuisine always nods towards its Mughal connections to Afghanistan and Persia, with aromatics like cardamom, cinnamon, and bay used liberally in biryanis and lamb and chicken dishes. Gujarati food is plainer, simpler, flavoured more with asofoetida (I am just beginning to see its point) and mustard seeds. It's, in my opinion, Bartimaeus' loss as this is delicious, indulgent and rich. And really very easy.
The magic of this dish is that as the chicken roasts on the bed of rice and vegetables, it creates its own stock and that the sticky, caramel-coloured rice will be some of the most chickeny, savoury. flavourful rice you'll ever have.
To be honest this was a result of visualising something in my mind, having various things in my fridge, and bunging it all together - so while there looks like an awful lot of ingredients (suggesting muchos effort) it's really not the case. I roasted the rice under the spiced chicken pieces, but as it took hours for the rice to cook and some it still remained crispy (some people like it, but crunchy rice sets my teeth on edge) in the recipe here I'm recommend boiling the rice first. I do hate it when a recipe only tells you halfway in that it needs 24 hours' marinading time so let me tell you from the off: THIS RECIPE DEFINITELY TASTES BETTER WITH AFTER 24 HOURS' MARINADING TIME.
2 cups of basmati rice (I used a mix of brown and white for texture and fibre)
half a butternut squash cut into 0.5 cm cubes
1 aubergine cut into 0.5 cm cubes
1 red onion, chopped
1 bulb of garlic (keep half unpeeled)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp pine nuts
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
3 tbsp frozen peas
1 tsp green sultanas (or regular sultanas if you can't find them)
1/2 tsp of saffron
3 tbsp greek yoghurt
6 chicken thighs
1 cup good chicken stock
1. Soak saffron in 1 tsp of hot water and crush 4-5 garlic cloves into a pulp.
2. Mix the saffron and the water into the greek yoghurt with salt and pepper and add the pulped garlic. Add one lemon's juice to the mix.
3. Mix the chicken thighs into the yoghurt marinade (score the pieces to get the flavours into the chicken).
4. Leave for at least two hours, or if possible, overnight.
5. Preheat the oven to 200C.
6. Boil the rice until just cooked (but not soft).
7. In a large roasting dish, combine the rice with all the remaining ingredients (fruit, spices, peas, squash, aubergine, onion, unpeeled garlic cloves). Drizzle some olive oil over (not much as the chicken fat will also soak into the rice). Flatten it down with a spoon to create an even surface.
8. Place chicken pieces on top of the rice/vegetable bed. Pour over remaining marinade over the chicken and the rice. I place the chicken skin side down first and then halfway through cooking, I turn them over to crisp up.
9. Bung in the oven!
10. Check on it intermittently. If the rice looks dry, splash over a bit of the chicken stock.
11. Remove when the chicken is cooked and nicely browned (45minutes ish?)
12 Serve to guests with refined (i.e. non-Gujarati) palates.