I seem to be a little obsessed with two things right now: poaching meat and the flavours of spring onions, coriander, ginger and garlic. That’s possibly because poaching is simple yet, when you combine it with such herbs and spices, you get a complex result. I can safely say that this is the best thing I have cooked this year. Having made it on Saturday I want to make it all over again tonight and the only thing that is putting me off is the thought that I might get sick of it if I eat it too often. Apparently this is known as Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore and China which sounds much more complicated than it is. All you need to create this magical dish is a lidded pot big enough to hold a chicken, a lidded frying pan for the rice and a pestle and mortar or small food processor/blender for the oil. If you like gently spiced comfort food this is for you.
Poached chicken, rice and ginger and spring onion oil (adapted from Bill’s Everyday Asian)
For three to four portions (with leftovers for fried rice and stock) you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
whole black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon
sea salt, 2 tablespoons and another teaspoon for the sauce
white rice, long-grain or jasmine (I used the latter), 500g
groundnut or sunflower oil, 5 tablespoons
garlic, 2 cloves
white onion, 1
whole chicken, about 1.5kg
fresh coriander, ½ bunch, with the roots if possible
sesame oil, 1 tablespoon
spring onions, 5
fresh ginger, about 3-4cms-worth
small red chillies, 2
soy sauce, 2 tablespoons
bok choi, to serve (optional)
1. Rinse the fresh coriander, trim and chop three of the spring onions and put them in a large, lidded casserole dish with the chicken, the 2 tablespoons of sea salt, the peppercorns and enough water to cover the lot.
2. Bring the chicken to the boil then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. At the end of those 30 minutes leave the lid on the pan but remove it from the heat and leave it to stand for another 40 minutes or so.
3. Whilst the chicken is cooking put the rice in a sieve and rinse it under cold water until the water runs clear.
4. Peel and chop the onion, peel and crush the garlic with the back of a knife (i.e. whole not with a press), peel and chop about a third of the ginger.
5. Put a tablespoon of groundnut or sunflower oil plus the tablespoon of sesame oil in a large, lidded frying pan and heat gently.
6. Add the chopped onion, garlic and ginger to the oil and cook until the onion is soft.
7. Add the washed rice to the frying pan, stir to coat all the rice with oil (this is a bit like a spicy risotto) then add about 1 litre of the cooking liquid from the chicken, cover and bring to the boil.
8. Once the rice liquid is boiling cover the frying pan, lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes. After that, take it off the heat without removing the lid and leave to stand, covered, for another ten minutes.
9. Whilst the rice is cooking make the sauces. First, destalk and chop the red chillis and mix with the soy sauce and put to one side.
10. Then trim and chop the last two spring onions and the rest of the ginger. Put in a pestle and mortar with a teaspoon of sea salt and grind until squished up and bruised but not a paste (no more than a few minutes). Empty into a heatproof bowl. In a small pan, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of groundnut or sunflower oil until very hot, tip over the ginger and spring onion and leave to cool.
11. When the standing time of both chicken and rice is up, serve the chicken with the rice, some of the cooking juices spooned over and the two sauces. I steamed some bok choi to go with this too. Just yum.