This is a recipe that I have concocted myself, with inspiration from Yotam Ottlenghi, whose TV series "Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast" we have recently been watching. Ottolenghi seems to have the knack of combining ingredients that might at first sound like strange partners, but making them work well together. In my recipe I have put together the sweet taste and soft texture of Butternut Squash with the firmer texture and slightly sharp taste of the Brussels Sprout. In true Ottolenghi style, my dish does have a meat element, but it is not the chief attraction...
This dish pairs chicken breast beaten flat into "Escalopes" (so that it cooks very quickly), with nutty Red Camargue rice, and Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts that have both been cooked until tender then slightly caramelized. It is garnished with toasted Pine-nuts and a drizzle of Pomegranate Molasses.
Stage 1 - preparation.
Slice 2 chicken breasts horizontally or butterfly them, then beat them flat with a meat-mallet.
Marinate the chicken with crushed garlic, lemon juice, dried Oregano and freshly milled black pepper.
Peel and cut into 2cm chunks approx. 200g of Butternut Squash.
Remove outer leaves from 10 or 12 Brussels sprouts (approx. 150g).
Toast 25g Pine-nuts in a dry frying-pan, being careful not to let them scorch.
Stage 2 - cook the rice and vegetables
Most recipes for Red Camargue rice use one of two methods. The first one cooks the rice like risotto - initially softening the rice in butter or oil for a few minutes, than progressively adding small amounts of hot stock, and allowing the rice to absorb it slowly. The second method puts the rice into three times its volume of water, and cooks it gently until it is tender (about 45 minutes), accepting that it may be necessary to drain off excess water, using a colander or sieve. I used the former method, because I wanted the rice to have a relatively wet texture, but I think either method would work OK here. Use about 65g dry rice per person. Camargue rice seems to cook very slowly (on the packet mine says 45 mins, but it needed more), so allow plenty of time.
Boil the Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash in salted water until tender but still with a bit of "bite" in them. Drain well. Cut the Brussels Sprouts in half. Whilst still warm, fry them and the squash briefly in a hot frying-pan with some butter so that they take on a little colour at the edges without getting very blackened.
In a large bowl, gently combine the cooked rice and vegetables, trying not to break up the Squash too much. Keep warm.
Stage 3 - cook the chicken
[This stage should ideally commence before Stage 2 is finished, but will only take a maximum of 5 minutes.]
Remove most of the marinade from the chicken pieces - especially any large lumps of raw garlic - and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Fry the chicken in a lightly-oiled frying-pan over a high heat, until just golden at the edges. Alternatively lightly oil the chicken and cook it in a griddle-pan. It is important not to cook the chicken for too long, otherwise it will go dry.
Stage 4 - serve
Place suitable portions of chicken and the rice dish side-by-side on individual plates. Garnish with the Pine-nuts and a drizzle of Pomegranate Molasses. Serve.
And the verdict...? I loved this combination, particularly the firm nutty texture of the rice, enhanced by the Pine-nuts, against the soft texture of the squash. The chicken came out well too, the marination worked a treat. On the down side, Jane was not so keen on the inclusion of the Brussels Sprouts - she would have preferred them plain boiled and served on the side.