THEn a recent trip to Mexico I was reminded of the country’s astonishing variety of wild herbs and greens. Handfuls of different ones are used to flavour and colour broths, soups and corn doughs (which are used to make the likes of tamales). This herby green rice recipe has long been a favourite– it looks fabulous on a Lenten table spilling out of a whole chicken. Try different herbs in the puree – any mix of wild garlic, dill, tarragon and parsley would taste wonderful.
Roast oregano chicken with green rice and ancho butter
I only use one ancho chilli if I am feeding this to the whole family, but try two if you like a little heat. Aleppo chilli flakes make a suitable substitution if you can’t find ancho.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 20 min
For the chicken
250g long-grain rice
A small bunch of coriander
A large handful of wild garlic (or 2 fat garlic cloves, peeled)
1 large onionpeeled and roughly chopped
500ml chicken stock or water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large chickenat room temperature
100ml white wine
For the ancho butter
1-2 wide chilliesor 1-2 tsp aleppo chilli flakes
2 fat garlic cloves
70g butterat room temperature
1 handful fresh oregano (or thyme)leaves stripped and roughly chopped
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Soak the rice in cold water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, wash the spinach, coriander and wild garlic (if using). Shake them dry. Blitz with the onion, and if using, garlic cloves, in a food processor, using 100ml of the stock to loosen it into a vivid green puree.
Heat a large, deep saute pan over a medium heat and add the oil. Add the greens and stir-fry for a minute or two. Drain the rice and add to the pan, stirring well. Now add the rest of the stock, season generously and simmer for 15 minutes until the rice is a little under-cooked – not raw, but still retaining some bite. It will continue to cook a little in the oven.
While the rice is cooking, de-stalk and de-seed the ancho chilli, tear into a few pieces and cover in boiling water. Leave to soften for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, smash the garlic and oregano together in a pestle or small food processor with a teaspoon of salt. Drain the ancho and add it to the garlic and oregano. Blitz to a paste before adding the butter. Mix well.
Loosen the skin from the chicken all over the breast and thighs and smear the butter underneath. Put it in a roasting tray and stuff the cavity with the green rice, allowing what doesn’t fit inside to spill out into the tray. Pour the wine into the tray and roast for 50-60 minutes, until golden on the top and the juices run clear when the thighs are pierced with a skewer. (If you allow 15 minutes per 500g of bird plus 15 minutes you should be right). Serve with a plate of green vegetables or salad on the side.
The simple flex …
Instead of chicken, this recipe is delicious if you stuff a few hollowed-out squashes with the rice, and slather them in the ancho butter before roasting.