Thursday 26 September 2013

Poached chicken with Bulgur

Here's a delicious meal to make when you're not in a hurry - like on a Sunday, when you have a bit of leisure time. It's an easy enough recipe; it just can't be cooked quickly!

Start by putting a whole chicken in a very big pan, along with a couple of litres of water and some flavourings. I used a "bouqet garni" made of the green part of a Leek in which I wrapped a Bay leaf, a sprig of Thyme and three sprigs of Parsley, all tied up tightly wth a piece of string. As well as this I added a carrot chopped into large chunks, three whole Cloves and about 20 crushed Black Peppercorns.

Now, put the lid on, bring the water the boil and then turn the heat down very low - so that the water hardly moves. Just the occasional bubble is all you need. Cook for at least 2 hours. I gave it 3.

You will end up with meat that is incredibly tender, and just falling off the bones. When you are ready to serve, very carefully lift the chicken out of the pan into a serving dish (one which will retain the juices and not spill everything all over the worktop!) Since I was only serving two people I just used the breast portions, but of course if you are serving more people then distribute the meat however you see fit. Anything that is left over can be used later on - for instance in some soup.

To accompany the chicken I decided to serve some bulgur wheat, of which we always have a packet or two in the storecupboard. It is a very handy ingredient - easy to use in any quantity you want, and quick to prepare. About 20 minutes before dishing-up time I cooked the bulgur with hot stock ladled out of the pan in which the chicken was cooking. It is important to judge the correct amount of water / stock to use. You can either cover the bulgur grains completely with hot fluid and then pour off any excess when the grains have swollen, or you can use a measured quantity of fluid and let the grains absorb it all. I used the latter method.

For extra flavour and some different textures I included with the bulgur some dried raisins and some pistachio nuts, which I wanted to soften a little in the hot stock. Then, when the bulgur had absorbed all the stock I stirred into it a huge handful of finely-chopped Parsley. Bulgur and Parsley seem to have a natural affinity! Feeling the need to have some additional vegetables, I added to the chicken pan some sliced Leeks, putting them in for the last 30 minutes or so. (In retrospect I think I would have been better off cooking them separately, because they went very soft and lost all their colour).

The final element of my meal is home-made tomato sauce. Very simple, but very delicious. Roast about 500g of tomatoes in a a deep pan, with some crushed cloves of garlic. When the tomatoes have been reduced to a soft pulp, pass them through a mouli-legumes or blitz them in a food processor so that you end up with what is basically a juice. I prefer the mouli-legumes, because it removes the pips and most of the skins from the tomatoes. If you don't own one of these, put it on your Wishlist! It's a really effective kitchen gadget.


Now put the juice into a saucepan with some salt and pepper and boil it, stirring frequently, until it reduces by 50% and thickens. Et voila - tomato sauce!

Time to put it all together. Bulgur on first, arranged to cover half the plate. Leeks next-door. Then the chicken. Pour the tomato sauce over the chicken and garnish with toasted almonds. (Did I mention toasting some Almonds? Toast some Almonds. Don't leave it till the last minute). This is what the finished dish looks like:

Apart from the Leeks, which would have been better replaced by some crisp Little Gem lettuce, I was really happy with this meal. Beautifully tender meat complemented by a number of other different tastes and textures - especially the really rich and flavourful tomato sauce and the crunchy Almonds. Jane said that she would have been happy with JUST the tomato sauce and Almonds - but I think she was lying!


  1. Looks very good Mark. I love the bulgar. The food mill - what we call the mouli-legumes is indeed a handy tool! I love mine!

  2. I've never poached a full chicken that way, I can imagine the meat being extremely tender though. I've often wondered about cooking a whole chicken in the slow cooker, I know it can be done, and I've heard people rave about how delicious it is cooking it this way. The tomato sauce looks very good, I bet it complimented the chicken really well.

  3. I've never had bulgur. I don't suppose you can describe the taste can you?

    1. Sue, Bulgur is a type of wheat, so it tastes "wheaty". If you have ever had the breakfast cereal "Puffed Wheat", just imagine that. I would also describe it as being nutty. If properly prepared it retains a bit of bite and doesn't go sloppy.

  4. Great dish. I haven't had bulgur wheat in ages, you have reminded me how nice it is.


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