Friday, 1 April 2011

CHICKEN BASQUE

When I put "chicken basque" into a Google image search just now, amongst the many pictures of the dish itself, was a cartoon of a chicken wearing a corset (or basque). Ho ho.

Eating this dish, you'd probably want to loosen your stays, if you were wearing them. Redolent of paella, with its fragrant, smoky rice, peppers, chorizo, and olives, this simple but very tasty dish is easy to make and a great standby for Sunday lunch or casual suppers with friends, as it can be easily doubled up to feed more. It's from Delia Smith's 'Summer Collection', and when the book first came out, to accompany the Sainted Delia's tv series, I made this all the time. And so did my mother-in-law. In the 'Winter Collection', she offers a Moroccan take on the same theme, with chickpeas, olives and preserved lemons, but I think the original Spanish-style dish is better. Do not be daunted by the long ingredients list: this dish is an easy one-pot meal. It can also be assembled in advance.

Two key ingredients give this dish its distinctive flavour: Spanish smoked paprika and chorizo (which is also flavoured with smoked paprika). Smoked paprika used only to be available from specialist retailers, or on holiday in Spain, but both Tesco and M&S stock is as part of their upmarket ingredients range. It was Delia who made it popular - just as, in the past, she made liquid glycerin a kitchen must-have when she used it for her Chocolate Truffle Torte (from her original Christmas book).

Here is Delia's recipe, virtually verbatim. Reading it now (I made it from memory last night, as I do with so many recipes), I realise I omitted the sun-dried tomatoes in oil. To be honest, they are not essential, but they definite add to the Mediterranean theme of this dish.

Chicken Basque
Serves 4

4 chicken legs, or thigh joints (bone in, skin on)
2 red, yellow or orange peppers (or a mixture), deseeded and roughly sliced
1 large onion, peeled and cut into slices roughly the same size as the peppers
2 large garlic cloves, peeled & sliced
150g chorizo sausage, sliced, or a packet of ready-sliced chorizo, cut into strips
50g sun-dried tomatoes, drained of oil
1 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
225 ml brown or white basmati rice (measured in a measuring jug)
275 ml chicken stock or Marigold vegetable stock
170 ml dry white wine
1/2 large orange, cut into wedges
50g black olives (pitted if you prefer)
salt and pepper
2-3 tbsp good olive oil

Season the chicken pieces and fry in a non-stick frying pan (if you do this, you shouldn't need any additional oil) until the skin is crisp and brown. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish (Le Creuset is ideal) and fry the onions, peppers and garlic until slightly browned at the edges. Then add the chorizo and smoked paprika. Stir in the rice, ensuring it has a good coating of oil, add the tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes, and then place the chicken pieces over the vegetables. Pour over the stock and white wine. Add the orange segments and olives and bring up to a simmer. Cook on a low heat with the lid on until the rice is done (approx 40-50 mins if using brown rice). No accompaniment required, though a green salad would be perfectly acceptable.

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