Spiced Chicken & Rice

Photo by Savannah Van der Niet

Photo by Savannah Van der Niet

There’s a Lebanese place in Red Hill that does the most insane vegetarian savoury rice and lentils, with charred bits of eggplant and chewy fried onion. I’ve never been able to cook eggplant right, but this is my attempt at something close to what they do. But also with chicken. 


750g Basmati rice
200g Lentils
200g Raisins
5 Cloves of garlic
2 Large onions
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
½ bunch fresh coriander
200g Pine nuts
Olive oil
1 Lemon

1.5 kilos chicken breast.
1.5 tablespoons turmeric
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 preserved lemons
(from a jar)

Boil the rice and the lentils separately – the rice for 10-15 mins and the lentils for 25-30 – until they’re tender. Combine the two, then fry the garlic, raisins, pine nuts and spices together in a seperate bowl. Mix through the rice and lentils, adding more spices and salt if it’s a bit bland.

Slice the onion into circles, separate the individual rings, then deep fry them in about 1 cup of olive oil until light brown and crispy. You don’t have to do this – you could dice them and fry with the garlic instead – but I think the long bits of fried onion through the rice give it a different texture and more interesting flavour. When you’re ready to serve, toss through a bunch of fresh coriander and squeeze some lemon over it.

Cut the chicken into strips (try and make them roughly the same size so they cook in the same time). Coat the chicken in the spices and preserved lemon and leave to marinate for about an hour. Shallow fry it in a pan (you might have to cook it in batches to make sure it’s cooked – don’t give your friends the raw chicken voms), then serve on top of the spiced rice. 

Pistachio Trifle with Pomegranate Jelly and Rosewater Custard

Lately I’ve been really obsessed with this cookbook called Honey & Co. The Baking Book, from an incredible-looking Middle Eastern restaurant in London. I’ve actually baked things from it that turned out ok - a certified miracle. I don’t know if the right way to show my appreciation was to butcher their trifle recipe (they used quince, almonds and vanilla in their way more refined version), and I fucked up the sponge pretty bad on mine, but this was pretty delicious still.


14 Leaves of gelatine (there are plenty of vegetarian setting agents you can use, but I haven’t used them before and didn’t want to risk it, even though, yes, gelatine is really gross).
450ml water
800ml pomegranate juice (if pomegranates are in season, get a few fresh ones too and throw some of the jewels through the jelly and then on top of the trifle cause that would be very nice)

900mls milk
200g caster sugar
9 egg yolks
2 teaspoons rosewater
75g plain flour

6 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup ground pistachios
1 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

200g Mixed crushed nuts
3 punnets of strawberries, cut in half (or use whatever fruit is in season – when I made this strawbs were like $2 a punnet)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Make the jelly first cause it’ll take at least a few hours to set – overnight it probably best.

For the jelly, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until they become soft. Meanwhile, heat the water and pomegranate juice in a large saucepan, until almost boiling (don’t let it boil). Turn off the heat and add the gelatine, stiring until the gelatine leaves are all desolved. Pour the mixture into whatever container you’re going to set it in – if you’re just cooking for a few people, individual glasses look better. I poured mine into two big glass bowls. Throw in some halved strawberries to set in the jelly. Put in fridge.

Mix the egg yolks and flour together in a large bowl. Heat up the milk and caster sugar until it’s just bubbling, then add it slowly to the egg and flour mixture, stirring quickly and continuously. Put it back in a saucepan on the heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken up. Add the rosewater, then keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Do you know a good sponge recipe? If so, make that and substitute half a cup of the flour for a cup of ground pistachios. Also send it to me, cause this one I adapted from one on the Coles website and it wasn’t so hot.

Beat eggs hard until they’re fluffy and aerated. Add the sugar slowly, continuing to beat the mixture constantly. Sift the flower and baking powder into the eggs, and mix lightly to combine (you don’t want to get rid of all the air). Add the ground pistachios, and pour the mix into a baking tray, bake for about 20 minutes, until it’s springy to touch and if you put a knife in it comes out clean.

When you’re ready to serve, take your jelly out of the fridge, and top with broken up pieces of sponge. Cover that with custard, then scatter the strawberries and crushed nuts over the top.