I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Friday, 12 March 2010

Chicken With Spelt

There are 3 types of grain we don't use nearly enough - quinoa, pearl barley and spelt. (Though - since grains are the fruit of cereal grasses - quinoa is not really a grain at all, being the edible seed of the herb goosefoot plant.) They are all packed full of protein, bursting with essential amino acids and either low in gluten or gluten-free. And they are much more versatile than we might at first think - they can be used in soups, stews, salads, risottos...

Yesterday I roasted a chicken with spelt (you could also use pearl barley) as the 'stuffing' and it was really tasty. I love roast chicken anyway, and, like many of us, have cooked it with all sorts of herbs and stuffings. It seems to accommodate many different herby, sharp and citrus-y flavours - sage, thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, tarragon, rosemary, lemon, garlic... (And that's without even considering the spicy and fruity ways of treating chicken in Africa, the Middle East and the Far East...) But this recipe's a little different.

Toast in a small frying pan 1 tsp of cumin seeds and 1 tsp caraway seeds for a minute or two to bring out the flavour, than grind them up in a pestle and mortar (oh, the aroma!) Heat up some olive oil in a larger pan and sauté a chopped onion, then after 10 minutes add a chopped up clove of garlic, sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the spices you've just ground plus 150 gm of spelt (or pearl barley) grains. Stir well. Pour in 500 ml of chicken stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the grains are soft (20-30 min). Yes, this is just like a risotto, but with spelt instead of rice... (Obviously, keep topping up with a little water if the mixture's getting too dry before it's properly cooked.) Finally, off the heat, stir in some chopped up dates or dried apricots, the zest and juice of a lemon, a heap of chopped fresh parsley, some chopped and toasted walnuts if you like (I didn't use these as they were unbelievably expensive), and some salt and pepper.

Stuff the cavity of a free-range chicken two-thirds full of this mixture, and roast in your usual way. (My own method was to pull the legs slightly away from the main body of the chicken - to aid the cooking process - and then to rub the breast and legs with butter, salt and pepper. I wrapped in foil, and roasted in a medium-hot oven - occasionally basting the chicken with the buttery, chicken juices to keep it moist. Just before it was cooked, I opened up the foil and turned up the heat, so that the skin became nice and brown and crispy.)

Reheat the remainder of the cooked spelt and serve with the chicken. You could accompany this quite strong-and-nutty tasting dish with a few roasted vegetables, I suppose. Or perhaps some unfussy al dente green beans all on their own. Myself, I prepared just a simple, green salad...

After my last post on home-made stock, I really couldn't let you or myself down, so this morning I approached the stock-making process with messianic zeal. To the chicken carcass and all the leftover chicken bits I added: onion, carrot, celery, leek, garlic, peppercorns, parsley, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme... It's simmering away as I write this, and smells absolutely delicious...


(With thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for this recipe, which is adapted from his cookery book River Cottage Everyday.)

1 comment:

ksam said...

Thanks,now I have to wipe the drool of my keyboard at work, and hope no one notices!! Karin