Who would have ever thought that a fussy, borderline vegetarian like myself, would one day become a passionate foodie! My family never ceases to remind me that I only ate the most boring and unadventurous foods in my youth, like plain pasta, rice, potatoes and…my favourite…Maggi two minute noodles! It’s a disgrace knowing that I caused my poor mum so much grief. To her amusement, one meal I did enjoy back then and still do now, is her yummy baked chicken and red rice. It’s definitely far from being bland or boring, it’s actually bursting with delicious flavour.
I often make it with homegrown leek and free-range chicken, but you can substitute with brown onion if you can’t get your hands on leek. You might also try pork rather than chicken. The inclusion of sundried tomatoes is a recent addition by me, so feel free to leave them out if you prefer.
By making a big batch, it makes for a quick and easy reheat dinner, perfect for early Spring with a dollop of natural yoghurt.
8-10 assorted chicken pieces, e.g. drumstick, thigh and breast (or replace with chicken thigh fillets)
2 bay leaves
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white and light green part chopped, dark green outer leaves discarded (replace with onion if leek is unavailable)
8-12 sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped (optional)
2-3 mild dried whole red chillies, seeds and stem removed and roughly chopped (optional)
1 small red capsicum or 2-3 red bullhorn chillies, seeds and stem removed and roughly chopped
2 cups (440g) medium grain rice, washed and drained
2 teaspoons mild paprika
4 tablespoons (80ml) Italian style tomato passata sauce
Dried vegetable stock e.g. Vegeta/Massel (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
1) Soak chicken pieces in cold water for 30 minutes to remove impurities then discard water.
2) Bring 2 litres water, bay leaf, 1 tablespoon salt and chicken pieces to the boil, reduce to simmer for 20-30 minutes (10-15 for boneless pieces). Remove chicken pieces and cover to keep warm. Continue to gently simmer chicken cooking liquid.
3) Preheat oven to 250°C.
4) Heat a medium frying pan over low-medium heat. Add oil, leek and a sprinkling of salt, saute without colouring (5 minutes). Turn heat up to medium, add sundried tomatoes, dried chillies, capsicum and saute (3-5 minutes). Add washed rice and stir to coat (2 minutes). Add paprika, once fragrant (1-2 minutes) add tomato passata and mix through (2-3 minutes). Season with 1-2 teaspoons sea salt (or a dried vegetable stock e.g. Vegeta/Massel) and black pepper to taste.Transfer to large baking dish, arrange chicken pieces over rice, pushing down slightly to avoid the meat from drying out.
5) Remove bay leaves from cooking liquid and arrange over rice. Ladle over enough liquid to completely cover rice.
Note: Do not discard remaining cooking liquid.
6) Place in hot oven and cook for 5 minutes then reduce temperature to 220°C and continue to cook for further 25-30 minutes or until rice is cooked and chicken is golden. If rice dries out add an additional 1-2 ladles of the cooking liquid. If rice and chicken brown too quickly cover loosly with a sheet of foil.
7) Allow to stand for 10 minutes and serve while hot with a dollop of natural yoghurt.
- Replace chicken with pork.
- For a vegetarian version omit chicken and use a good quality vegetable stock.