Friday, 25 April 2014

Puerto Rican chicken and rice

This wonderful paella-like casserole is one of my - and my family's - all-time favourite dishes - I could eat it every day. It's (slightly) adapted from the brilliant Levi Roots' cookbook Caribbean Food Made Easy - and apparently it's one of HIS favourite dishes too! It's easy to see why though: it's a doddle to make and the scrumptuously spicy flavours are so stunning that it is fit for any dinner party - or mid-week supper - the choice is all yours! (I actually made this last (Easter) Saturday in the Belgian Ardennes where we were having a "country break" at the house of my friend Sue (the veg goddess) - unfortunately there were (as per usual with this dish) absolutely no left-overs to put in the freezer for her and her husband... so I just have to make it again for them the next time they stay with us in Brussels!)

The star of this is the all-purpose seasoning - "the" ingredient found in every Caribbean kitchen cupboard. It usually contains a mix of onion powder, coriander, paprika, thyme, allspice, black pepper and chilli. It's readily available in UK supermarkets in the "foreign food" section and 100g cost less than one pound - a bargain! Here in Brussels I buy the "Rajah" brand from the Chinese Kam Yuen supermarket. But it's also really easy to make yourself - here's a nice recipe (sent all the way from the "US of A", as Alan Partridge used to say...)

300g basmati rice
2 tbs vegetable oil
8 chicken pieces/1 chicken, jointed into 8 - 10 pieces*
2 heaped tbs all-purpose seasoning
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
1 green pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped/crushed
10 allspice berries, crushed or 1 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
small thumb of ginger, chopped finely
1 chili (optional)
750ml chicken stock
3 sprigs of fresh thyme/1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
a small handful of pitted green olives/1 tbs capers**

Serves 4.

Preheat the oven to 200°/180° fan oven.
Sprinkle the all-purpose seasoning onto a large plate and press the chicken pieces into it to coat well on both sides.
Heat the oil in a large pan. Brown the chicken pieces well (you don't need to cook them through at this point). Take the chicken out of the pan and place in a large ovenproof casserole dish. Add the onion and garlic to the same pan and sauté over a medium heat until softened. Add the allspice, turmeric, ginger and chili (if using) and cook for a minute, stirring.
Add the mixture to the chicken, then add the sliced peppers and olives/capers to the casserole.
Pour the rice all round the chicken. Then use some of the stock to deglaze the frying pan and, together with the remaining stock, pour into the casserole, followed by the thyme and bay leaves.
Bring everything up to boil on the hob, seal with tin foil and the lid and cook in the oven for 30 - 35 mins.

* I always joint a whole chicken myself - it's so much cheaper and not difficult at all: And I always include the back chopped in half in casseroles as well - my cook's treat...
** The capers are, of course, not original to this dish - but I find they work just as well if you don't have any olives!


  1. I am interested to try this recipe, it looks different from what I usually do so I am willing to try something new.

  2. I love rice every which way. I need to try this one.