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How to make the perfect roast chicken with rice

BY Alex Jackson

28th Nov 2023 Recipes

3 min read

How to make the perfect roast chicken with rice
Chef and writer Alex Jackson shares a recipe for roast chicken from his new cookbook, Frontières, a celebration of French cooking full of simple, hearty recipes
A recipe adapted from a simpler idea in Jacques Médecin’s Cuisine Niçoise. I am a bit funny about fruit with meat but I will make an exception for this luxurious summery number. This recipe is uniquely Provençal, I suppose, but there’s also something very un-European about a chicken stuffed with rice, nuts and fruit.
Omit the prosciutto, add a few crushed allspice berries to the buttery onions, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses towards the end, and you would be well on the way to the Levant rather than the western Mediterranean. Anyway, I digress. This is delicious.

Ingredients

Serves: 4
  • 1 nice fat chicken, weighing approximately 2kg
  • olive oil
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 200g basmati rice
  • 50g unsalted butter, plus a little extra, softened, for brushing
  • 1 large white onion, sliced into half-moons
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of thyme or winter savory
  • 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 tbsp pine kernels
  • a fig leaf, if you have one
  • 8 fresh figs (small black provençal figs if you can find them)
  • 4 slices of prosciutto
  • 2 tbsp picked parsley leaves
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Take the chicken out of the fridge, place in a roasting tin, rub it with olive oil and the cayenne pepper, then sprinkle with salt all over. Set aside while you prepare the stuffing.
Preheat the oven to 200°C fan/220°C/ 425°F/gas mark 7.
To make the rice pilaf stuffing: carefully wash the rice in three changes of cold water, until the water runs almost clear. Soak the rice for 15 minutes in fresh cold water. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large, lidded, heavy-bottomed saucepan and slowly cook the sliced onion, herbs and garlic, adding a good pinch of salt. When the onion is soft but without colour, add the pine kernels and cook until lightly golden.
Drain the rice well, being careful not to break the delicate grains. Add the rice to the pot, another pinch of salt, and pour over boiling water to cover by 5mm.
If you have a fig leaf, lay it over the rice, which will impart a wonderfully fragrant flavour, but it’s not essential. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 2 minutes over a high heat, then turn down to the lowest possible heat and cook for another 4 minutes. Take the pan off the heat but leave the lid on for 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and fig leaf and fluff the rice with a fork. The rice should be not quite cooked. Halve the figs, cut the prosciutto into strips, roughly chop the parsley and mix all into the rice. Stuff the rice mixture into the chicken, pressing with a spoon to fit more in. Leave any excess in the pan to reheat later when the chicken is ready. Squish the half lemon on top of the rice so that the stuffing stays inside.
Transfer the chicken to a tin and roast in the hot oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes in total. After 45 minutes, brush the chicken all over with softened butter. Continue to roast until the skin is golden brown and the juices run clear, then remove the chicken from the tin and let it rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, put the roasting tin on the hob over a low heat and pour in about 200ml of water. Scrape the base of the tin and simmer the resulting juices briefly to make a thin gravy—here I suppose the word jus is permitted—that can be enriched by whisking in a little cold butter if so desired. Taste for salt (it probably won’t need much) and season with black pepper.
Reheat any remaining pilaf gently in the pot. Remove the half lemon, spoon out the rice stuffing, and serve the chicken on top with the juices spooned over.
Frontieres Cover Image
Frontières by Alex Jackson is published by Pavilion Books, £30. Photography by Charlotte Bland.
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