Over the past few days it has been impossible to go to sleep comfortably due to the searing heat and high temperatures. Sitting, sweltering in humid, airless evenings has been unbearable. The thought of having to turn an oven on and subsequently heat up the house is quite frankly the last thing I’d want to do. Alas, even the ubiquitous summer staple; the BBQ, is making me want to jettison off to cooler parts. But one must eat and one must eat well.
So inspired by the shimmering evening heat and the colour of summer, I offer you a simple yet stunning 2 course supper that bring all the colours and smells of the souk to your doorstep: cinnamon and lemon chicken pilaf followed by a refreshing lemon syllabub.
Cinnamon and lemon chicken pilaf
Pilaf, from Persian origins, is basically a rice dish with any vegetables, meat or shellfish added. When cooking anything Middle-Eastern, I cannot avoid adding toasted nuts to the dish, nor do I want to, as this adds to the resiny earthiness of the dish as well as a touch of exoticism. Feel free to add dry fruits or even rose petals as this can only enhance its intended decadence.
The beautiful aromas and earthy colours make everything golden; as if a Sultan were to be joining you for dinner.
1st: Marinade chicken pieces (I used breast but have used boneless thighs before) in Greek yogurt, the juice of a lemon and a teaspoon of cinnamon (or alternative aromatics e.g. cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, mixed spice) for one hour or longer.
2nd: Prepare your chicken stock (add a glug of rosewater) with saffron strands to relinquish their warm ochre dye.
3rd: After an hour, drain the excess marinade off the chicken pieces and fry in batches to colour them. Once all the chicken is fried set aside and tend to the rice.
4th: I cook rice using the 2:1 method. 2 parts warm stock: 1 part basmati rice. Toss a couple of cardamon pods into the stock to release their spicy aromas as well as a good squeeze of lemon juice.
5th: In a dry pan, fry pistachios, flaked almonds and pine nuts until golden.
6th: Once the rice is cooked, mix everything together with freshly chopped parsley. I usually do this in the large frying pan I used to fry the chicken in so that all the charred-black marinade bits around the pan make their way into the final dish.
A Tudor creation, the syllabub is a cloud-light yet aromatic dessert that is more a visual delight than a full blown pudding.
Very easy to make (no cooking; merely pouring and whisking)
And can be made with several flavour combinations. Basically think of it as scented cream that occupies a notional territory between solid and liquid:
1st: Whisk a 254ml tub of cream with 4 tablespoons of icing sugar until it forms soft peaks.
2nd: Add a splosh (more if you want!) of limoncello liqueur and a squeeze of lemon juice. Fold this in gently, try not to make the cream any thicker.
3rd: Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon curd and ripple this in with the handle of a spoon.
4th: In a dry pan, fry flaked almonds with icing sugar until golden.
5th: Serve in chilled glasses, sprinkled with the flaked almonds. Provide biscotti or alternative biccies to scoop the cool cream into your mouth!
Not even, Sheharezade, would be able to pull Aladdin away from the table with this feast!