MOROCCAN ROAST CHICKEN STUFFED WITH RICE
Text By Mark Montovio
Just imagine having paella stuffed inside a roast chicken. I first had this dish in Marrakesh over 20 years ago and a quick conversation with the cook in French, who was quite happy to come out to talk to me, helped me determine what the process was and what ingredients made this dish such a special one. They served it with a mixed salad and I have continued to have it in much the same way.
Other than the rice which needs to be precooked, the other ingredients are mixed in raw with the rice, although of course you could fry the onion and garlic if you wanted a more caramelized flavour.
I have cooked mine much in the same way all this time unless I’m missing a particular ingredient. For the stuffing I use rice boiled with a few saffron threads both for taste and colour, and then I mix this in a bowl together with a few drops of olive oil, onions, garlic, ginger, olives, preserved lemons, raisins, dried apricots, pine nuts, the chicken livers if I have them, fresh coriander, mint and parsley, ground coriander, cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Of course more of the rice, but the ratio of ingredients again is up to personal taste. Once the mix is cooled it sort of sticks together and then I can stuff the chicken.
The stuffing is placed in between the skin and flesh which you need to separate carefully with your fingers. If you have long nails, you risk tearing it, and this will have a different result. Not the end of the world of course but the rice won’t be the same. Any left over rice I then stuff into the cavity but I don’t like packing that tight to ensure that heat can travel through with greater ease.
Once stuffed, salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil and then into the oven to cook in whatever way you would normally roast your chicken, i.e. in a roasting tin, with tin foil, uncovered etc.
Is there any reason why you have to stick to the above ingredients? Not at all. Imagine the ingredients you would use in any Spanish rice dish. In fact, you could also substitute the rice for couscous. And I’m thinking now how delicious it must be stuffed with a creamy mushroom risotto!
It is a very complete, festive and impressive dish, well worth the time it takes to prepare it
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Mark Montovio shares some of his much loved local and world recipes, opening up possibilities for making each dish to suit a variety of families, different tastes and particular dietary needs. Combining his love of different cultures and world cuisine he is also committed to preparing meals which are nutritious, tasty and good to look at, with minimum waste and using seasonal produce.