This beautiful rice pilaf is packed with aromatic fresh herbs and presented as a rice cake with a buttery, saffron-infused crust. The rice is cooked in the traditional Persian way of soaking, then parboiling and steaming, to give elegant, separated long grains.
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300g basmati rice
200g block Odysea Feta, crumbled
5 tbsp vegetable oil
6 medium echalion shallots, finely sliced
6 chicken thigh fillets (about 500g)
30g unsalted butter
0.4g pack Cooks’ Ingredients saffron
50g dried apricots, roughly chopped
30g pack Cooks’ Ingredients barberries
100g pistachio nut kernels, roughly chopped
Rinse the rice in 3-4 changes of water and bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Stir in the rice and boil briskly until al dente, about 5-7 minutes. Drain, then gently run cold water over the rice in the sieve, until cooled. Sit the sieve over the pan and let the rice stand for 10 minutes. Mix a small mugful of the rice with 50g feta; set aside.
Add the oil to a large casserole or heavy-based pan. Fry the shallots over a medium heat, stirring often, for 16-18 minutes until browned and crisp (be aware they can catch easily). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to a plate. Trim any excess sinew from the chicken, chop into bite-sized chunks and season. Add to the pan with the butter, fry for 4-6 minutes until lightly browned, then lift out onto another plate.
Pour off and keep the fat from the pan, then wipe the pan clean. Cut a square of parchment paper just larger than the base, scrunch it up, then flatten in the pan. Return the fat to the pan along with ½ the saffron and spread over an even layer of the feta-rice mix.
Scatter in ½ the remaining saffron and ½ the apricots. Follow with a layer of roughly 1/3 each of the remaining rice, feta, crispy shallots, barberries and nuts, then add ½ the chicken. Repeat the above, then finish with a layer of plain rice. Reserve the remaining 1/3 of the feta, shallots, barberries and nuts, to serve.
Poke 8 holes in the rice to the base of the pan with the handle of a wooden spoon. Cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes, rotating the pan occasionally (steam will release). Wrap the lid in a clean tea towel, cover and cook over a very low heat for 35 minutes. Take off the heat to rest for 15 minutes. Turn the rice out onto a platter (or scoop out if you prefer). Scatter with the reserved feta, shallots, barberries and nuts and serve with yogurt, if liked.
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