Chicken, Date and Lentil Pilaf (6)

Another favourite recipe from Diana Henry.

Chicken, Date and Lentil Pilaf (6)
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Chicken, Date and Lentil Pilaf (6)
Print Recipe
  1. For the pilaf, you will be cooking the rice and lentils at the same time. Start by rinsing the rice in a sieve until the water runs clear.
  2. Using a very sharp knife, remove the rind from half of the orange in broad strips, avoiding the bitter white pith. Cut the rind into fine julienne strips and set aside. Squeeze the juice from the orange and add half of it to the chicken stock.
  3. Heat 15g of the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and sauté the onion until soft and pale gold. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Now add the rice and stir it around until well coated in the butter and just beginning to toast. Add the chicken stock and dates and bring to the boil.
  4. When the surface of the rice looks 'pitted', turn the heat right down and cover with a lid. The rice will cook in the steam created by the remaining bit of liquid. Do not stir it or you will release the starch and the rice will become sticky. It will cook in about 15 minutes, but you need to check towards the end to make sure the rice isn't burning at the bottom of the saucepan.
  5. At the same time, put the lentils into a saucepan and cover generously with water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 15-25 minutes until cooked but not collapsed (the time will depend on their age). Drain and rinse in hot water, then fork it through the rice, seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper and a good squeeze of lemon.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, season the chicken and cook it on a medium heat to get a good colour all over, then turn down the heat until the pieces are cooked through but still tender (about 4 minutes each side). Slice the larger pieces into smaller bits and cover to keep warm.
  7. Melt the remaining butter in a pan and add the orange rind strips. Cook over a medium heat until softening - it will take only about 4 minutes - then add the sugar and stir around until all the moisture is cooked off and the rind is slightly caramelised.
  8. Gently fork the chicken and orange rind into the cooked rice and lentils along with the reserved orange juice, the nuts and coriander.
  9. Quickly make the saffron butter by melting the butter in a pan, adding the saffron and stirring to help the saffron colour the butter. Put the rice mixture on to a heated platter (or a broad shallow bowl), spoon on some yogurt (serve the rest on the side), then pour on the saffron butter. Serve immediately.
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