Chicken Polo with a surprisingly good Viognier

One of the all time fantastic cooks in my life growing up was our great family friend Orlando Gough. Orlando has just had a book of his recipes published – Orlando Gough Recipe Journal – and this means, thrillingly, that his recipes are now available to all. I was very flattered to get a mention in the book (look out for me on page 75!!) and so it only seems right that my first recipe post of 2013 was one of his. His Chicken Polo particularly jumped out at me when I first flicked through; I suspect because it’s an Iranian dish and my husband’s maternal family are all from Iran, which goes a long way towards explaining Mr F’s extreme love of yoghurt.

This dish was absolutely delicious, gently aromatic and nowhere near as sweet as I expected considering the apricots. I have never cooked with cardamom before (except for accidentally eating a whole pod nestled in the pilau rice of a takeaway curry) which is a beautiful, subtle spice. This would be a great dinner party dish as once the chicken and rice are on there’s nothing left to do.

Chicken Polo (serves 4-6)

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 300g basmati rice
  • 75g butter
  • 125g dried apricots, each one sliced in three
  • the crushed seeds from 8 cardamom pods
  • 40g rasins
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • salt and pepper

Using a large frying pan, brown the chicken thighs in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped onion and fry gentry for 15 mins.

While the onion is frying, boil the rice for 10 mins in 600ml water (rule of thumb: twice the weight of the rice). Rinse it very thoroughly under the cold tap to get rid of the starch. Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan, add the rice and a little salt, and stir. Put on the lid of the saucepan, wrapped in a tea towel, and cook over a very low heat for 45 mins. A crunchy light brown crust, known in Iran as dig, should form on the bottom of the rice.

Once you’ve got the rice on, add the apricots, cardamom seeds, cinnamon, raisins and chicken stock to the chicken and onions. Season. Empty the mixture into a saucepan, cover, and simmer over a low heat for 45 mins, making sure it doesn’t dry out. You should be left with a few tablespoons of luscious sauce.

Empty the rice onto a dish, break up the crust and mix in the chicken stew.

This dish went beautifully with the McManis Family Vineyards Viognier from Majestic Wine. It needed something with enough body to stand up to the creamy sauce created by the stock and something to balance the slight sweetness of the apricots. This wine was shockingly good even for it’s £8.79 price point. Viogniers can sometimes lack balance and come in an array of different styles but they are almost always great food wines. This particular one has a nose of fresh apricot and spice, it is gently floral without being overpowering. The body is dry and pretty full, it has a great texture (not too oily) and displays flavours of apricot, stone fruit and spice. With such a fantastic length it tastes a lot more expensive than it is.

So there you have it – hopefully something a little bit different for you to try in both the Chicken Polo and the Viognier. And a big thank you to Orlando for a wonderful recipe.

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