I know that I've definitely made this recipe before, but having done so again, I just can't remember the first time as being anything like the second time! I have a vague recollection of not being able to get whole chicken breasts, so trying in vain to stuff small chunks of chicken with mango chutney - which as you can imagine, would not go well.
So, this time was really a first "proper" go at this recipe - which again is another BBC Good Food one.
The chicken breasts from our local butcher have been a bit random in their quality just recently. However, they seem to have picked up a bit now and we're back to some lovely fat, chunky pieces of chicken that were just perfect for this recipe.
The chicken part of it couldn't be any easier to prepare. You simply take the breast and slice it almost in half - enough to make a pocket to contain the mango chutney. Then, quickly spoon in the chutney and close up the pocket with a deftly inserted cocktail stick and put the whole lot onto a baking tray that you've previously covered in sliced red onion. Then, mix up a combination of curry powder, cumin seeds and olive oil and brush the chicken liberally to coat and then put it in the oven for 25-30 minutes. How easy is that?
The resultant chicken is beautifully juicy and the sweet spiciness of the mango chutney mixes so well with the curry flavoured coating that it's just yum from the beginning to the end.
Now the spiced pilau rice was a bit lacking in the spice department, I thought. After all, just an onion, cumin seeds, bay leaves and a cinnamon stick would have to work pretty darned hard to meet the description of "spiced", especially when paired with such a flavoursome meat recipe. So, I upped the spice quota by adding some turmeric (which I try to include in anything relevant, for the healthy anti-inflammatory benefits), ground coriander (the rice is finished with some fresh coriander, so I didn't think the use of ground would be out of place) and a pinch of chilli flakes for added zap! The recipe stated to use half of the cumin seeds in the rice, but I hadn't understood that and had used them all with the curry powder. So, I just used a teaspoonful of ground cumin, which so far as I could tell worked as well, if not better than the original! Also added, were some sultanas for their ability to deliver little pockets of intense sweetness and some flaked almonds for added texture. As another way of increasing the flavour quota, I used boiling chicken stock as opposed to just water.
Now THAT was a spiced pilau rice. In fact, I had the leftovers for lunch the following day with some scrambled egg and it was completely delicious. It worked very well with the chicken and everyone returned clean plates. You can't ask for better than that!
MANGO STUFFED CURRIED CHICKEN with SPICED PILAU RICE (feeds 3)
1 red onion, sliced
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 tbsp chunky mango chutney
1 tbsp medium curry powder
3 tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 brown onion, sliced finely
2 tbsp flaked almonds
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
half a tsp ground turmeric
a large pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp sultanas
200g basmati rice
450ml boiling chicken stock.
1. Pre-heat your oven to 200degC/400degF/Gas6.
2. Line a baking tray with silver foil and arrange the red onion slices to form a bed for the chicken.
3. Take each chicken breast and slice into each (without cutting through) to form a pocket. Spoon a tablespoonful of mango chutney into each pocket (remembering not to put the spoon into the jar once it's been in contact with the chicken. Spoon the chutney out into a bowl before you start and don't put any chutney back into the jar - any leftovers can be drizzled onto the onions) and close the pocket by piercing it through with a cocktail stick. I found it was easiest to do if you roll the chicken onto its back and let gravity hold the chutney inside, but be quick!
4. Place each chicken breast onto the onion bed.
5. Next, in a small bowl mix together the curry powder, cumin seeds and oil and brush each chicken breast liberally with the mixture.
6. In a large saucepan, heat the vegetable oil and add the sliced onion. Fry for 5-6 minutes on a low to medium heat until the onions have turned transparent and softened.
7. Add the flaked almonds, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, ground cumin, ground coriander
and the chilli flakes. Stir well and cook for a couple of minutes, or until fragrant.
8. Add the ground turmeric, sultanas and rice (which you have previously washed under warm water, until the water has run clear), stirring well to coat each grain of rice in the oil.
9. Add the stock and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn the heat off, cover with a lid and leave to steam for 7 minutes or so - or until the rice is tender. You shouldn't be left with any liquid, but with individual grains of coloured and spiced rice. Taste and adjust the seasoning, particularly with salt.
10. Serve, including the baked onions from under the chicken - which will be softened and deliciously flavoured from the chicken juices.