This warming spiced rice is a definite show-stopper, the kind of meal you’d make for a special occasion. We toyed over including this recipe in the book, laborious as it is, but, in all honesty, Noor wouldn’t have it any other way. Rice, she believes, deserves to be prized and treasured – taking centre stage at many a family table – and so, make this one as a weekend project, a feast of feasts, a real cause for celebration. Yes, it takes time, but here’s a promise that it is oh-so-worth-it.
1 whole chicken (1.4kg)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 onion, cut into 6 wedges (150g)
1 head of garlic, skin on and halved widthways
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp olive oil
1½ tbsp lemon juice
5g parsley, roughly chopped
salt and black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
40g unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped (150g)
300g minced lamb
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
400g basmati rice, washed, soaked in cold water for at least 1 hour and then drained
500g Greek yoghurt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
50g unsalted butter
30g blanched almonds
30g pine nuts
¾ tsp Aleppo chilli, or ½ tsp regular chilli flakes
5g picked parsley leaves
4 tbsp pomegranate seeds
1. Put the chicken into a large saucepan, for which you have a lid, along with the cinnamon sticks, onion, garlic, 2 litres of water and 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 70 minutes, or until cooked through. Lift out the chicken and, when cool enough, tear into large bite-size chunks, discarding the skin and bones. Place the chicken in a bowl with the ground cumin and cinnamon and set aside. Strain the stock through a sieve set over a large bowl, discarding the solids. Measure out 850ml and keep warm (save the remainder for another use).
2. For the rice, put the oil and half the butter into a large saucepan, for which you have a lid, and place on a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 7 minutes, stirring often, until lightly golden. Add the lamb, garlic and spices and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring often, until the lamb is no longer pink. Add the rice, 700ml of the warm stock, 1¾ teaspoons of salt and a good grind of pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover with the lid and cook for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to sit, covered, for 15 minutes more. Add the remaining butter and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, make the yoghurt sauce by whisking together the yoghurt, garlic, ¾ teaspoon of salt and the remaining 150ml of warm stock in a medium bowl.
4. Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook for 5 minutes, to warm through. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and parsley and set aside.
5. Make the garnish by putting the butter into a small frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the almonds and cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until lightly coloured. Add the pine nuts and cook for another 2 minutes, until golden. Remove from the heat and add the Aleppo chilli.
6. Spread the rice over a large, round serving platter. Top with the chicken, then pour over half the garlic yoghurt. Finish with the nuts and butter, followed by the picked parsley and pomegranate seeds. Serve the remaining yoghurt alongside.