I am basically a lazy cook. Recipes which appeal to me are those which have ingredients already in my house; that are simple enough for me to cut corners with (I don’t want to have to get the food processor out to chop those ingredients when I have to spend ages washing it up afterwards); and that generate the least cleaning up afterwards. That means I do tend to rely on cooking variations of the same meal (one pot wonders) over and over again, or baking the same type of cake (anything which does not require creaming butter and sugar, which has to be the most boring job in the world). I know the food will always be tasty (hopefully), but there will never be any surprises at the dinner table (except for curries, as I never bother to write down the combinations of spices I have used, so they are always impossible to replicate).
But I can’t write about cooking the same old thing every week on this blog, especially now it’s more than just my mum following me. So as I work for a global company, I emailed a few colleagues from around the world to find out what they would traditionally cook at Easter. I had some great suggestions, but one which really appealed to me was the Hainanese Chicken Rice from Monique in Hong Kong.
Whilst you probably won’t be surprised to hear that Hainanese Chicken Rice is not a traditional Easter recipe, it is often described as the national dish of Singapore. It comprises of poached chicken, aromatic rice, a chicken broth and chilli sauce. I love Asian food anyway, and this sounded simple, tasty and healthy – the perfect antidote to a weekend of big chunks of rare beef, potatoes roasted in goose fat, creamed leeks and strawberry mille feuille.
I made it like this, with just a few tiny tweaks (I can’t help myself) to the original recipe to suit what I had in the cupboards.
Hainanese Chicken Rice – feeds 4
- For the chicken: one small chicken, a stalk of lemongrass, a teaspoon of lazy garlic, a teaspoon of lazy ginger, one carrot, 3 spring onions, a chicken oxo
- For the rice: 1.5 cups of jasmin rice (soaked for 10 minutes), a splash of vegetable oil, a teaspoon of lazy garlic, half a teaspoon of lazy ginger, half a teaspoon of sesame oil, 1.5 cups of broth from poaching the chicken, salt to taste – by the way, I don’t normally measure anything in cups, but I couldn’t be bothered to work out the rice / water in grams / millilitres – sorry!
- For the chilli sauce: 2 green chillis (de-seeded), although red ones are traditional, one teaspoon of lazy garlic, half a teaspoon of lazy ginger, 2 spring onions or a small shallot, a pinch of salt, juice from two limes (or a big squeeze from a squeezy jif lime)
Firstly, put all the chicken ingredients in a large saucepan and top up with water to just cover the chicken (which should be squashed into the pan breast-size down). Bring to the boil and simmer for around 40 minutes depending on the size of the chicken. I was completely paranoid about food poisoning and so left the chicken in the poaching liquor until cold. You can do this the day before you plan to eat the dish (which is exactly what I did).
For the rice, lightly sautee the garlic and ginger in some oil in a saucepan for a minute. Then add the drained rice and a splash of sesame oil and stir the rice around until it is coated in oil (like you are making a risotto). Then add 1.5 cups of the poaching liquid from the chicken to the rice, along with a pinch of salt. Bring the rice to the boil, turn the heat down low to a simmer and put a lid on the rice. Cook for 15 minutes and then take the pan off the heat and leave the rice covered in the pan for another 5-10 minutes.
I was totally convinced that the rice would not cook properly and burn underneath, so I was genuinely stunned to see that the rice was cooked perfectly – each grain cooked and separate from the rest – fluffy and gorgeously tasty. Why did I never believe that rice could cook in this method before? I am converted.
While the rice is cooking, don’t do what I did and check it every 2 minutes for potential burning – instead make your chilli sauce by finely chopping the chillis and spring onions and mixing them with the other ingredients. You can also remove the chicken from the stock and take the meat from the bone. I also reduced my stock by around a third to intensify the flavour, and lay the chicken breasts back in the stock to warm through before serving.
When everything is ready, dish up as follows: put your lovely, fluffy, miracle rice on the plate first. Top with the chicken breast (for me without the skin but traditionally it should have the skin on it). Pour some broth into a bowl. Serve these alongside a pot of dark soy sauce, your chilli sauce, some thinly sliced cucumber and coriander leaves. Add what you want to your chicken and rice, according to taste. I also added a splash of homemade sweet chilli sauce to my chicken as I had it in the fridge.
It looks beautiful and tastes amazing. In fact, I think this is my new favourite dinner.