I love one-pot dishes like this. They almost get on with the cooking by themselves and this recipe is one of the hidden gems of the Middle East. Hopefully you’ll be as lucky as I was when I ate it: sitting on a sunny terrace in Amman as the steaming dome of fragrant rice, spiced chicken and vegetables appeared on a big plate for us to tuck into. Heaven.
SKILL LEVEL MID
sunflower oil, for deep-frying
1 eggplant (aubergine), cut into 1 cm-thick rounds
1 small cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 kg cooked basmati rice
2 tsp garam masala
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 chicken, cut into 6 pieces
1 large brown onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
3 whole cardamom pods, slightly crushed
1 tsp allspice berries
2 bay leaves
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make the poached chicken, place all the ingredients in a large saucepan, then add enough water to just cover. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 40 minutes or until the chicken is completely tender and almost falling off the bone. Remove the chicken from the broth and set aside, then strain the broth though a fine sieve. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin and bones (you can leave the bones in but I prefer the dish without) and leave the meat in large pieces.
Meanwhile, heat the sunflower oil in a deep saucepan or deep-fryer to 180°C. Cook the eggplant and cauliflower, in batches, for 3-4 minutes or until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
Line the base of a 6-litre capacity non-stick saucepan with the tomato slices, then top with the eggplant. Spread about one third of the cooked rice over the top, then sprinkle a little garam masala over and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on the rice, then top with the cauliflower and cinnamon. Cover with the remaining rice so that it comes about 2.5 cm below the top of the pan. Add another light sprinkling of garam masala and season to taste, then ladle over enough of the strained broth to just cover. Cover with a lid and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until all the broth has been absorbed. Invert onto a large flat plate and give 3 sharp taps before lifting off the pan. Serve immediately.