This beautiful braised chicken recipe from cook and food writer Nigel Slater’s new book is soothing home cooking at its best
IMAGE: ©JONATHAN LOVEKIN
The eighty days of pandemic lockdown in the spring of 2020 brought with it an urgent need for dishes that served to soothe rather than excite. Most welcomed by me were those accompanied by a mildly seasoned broth that felt somehow healing. Whilst holed up in self-isolation I cooked chicken with green spring vegetables such as lettuce and young, thin leeks that took on a silky texture in the oven, with the juicy stems of the lettuce retaining a little of their crispness. Cos and Little Gem were the most suitable, the exceptionally fragile leaves of the round Butterhead variety somewhat less so. This seemed to fulfil the brief: healing flavours for troubled times. Later, I swapped the lettuce for tiny orzo pasta, which also added a silken quality to the broth.
Braised Chicken with Leeks, Orzo, Peas and Parsley
- 3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
- 6 large chicken thighs
- 250 g leeks
- 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
- half a lemon
- 6 peppercorns
- 200 g orzo
- 150 g peas shelled or frozen weight
- parsley and tarragon a small handful
- Warm the oil in a deep, lidded pan, add the chicken pieces, skin side down and lightly seasoned, then cook until the skin is a rich, deep gold. Turn them and colour the underside similarly, then remove from the pan and set aside.
- Set the oven at 200C. Trim the leeks, discarding the roots and very tips of the leaves. Cut into short pieces about the length of a wine cork, then wash them thoroughly, removing every grain of grit trapped between their layers.
- Pat the leeks dry, then fry them in the chicken pan over a moderate heat for about 5 minutes, covered with a lid, so they soften without browning. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, stirring as you go, then add the half lemon, peppercorns and a teaspoon of salt. As the stock boils rain in the orzo and continue boiling for 3 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, cover again and bake for 35 minutes.
- Remove the lid, add the peas, then return to the oven for 5 minutes. Check the seasoning, then add the tarragon and parsley and serve in bowls, with spoons.
A Cook’s Book by Nigel Slater is published by 4th Estate (£30) and is available to buy here.
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