Spherical Mass

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The simplicity and elegance of pulaos combined with their ability to moonlight as a one-pot meal stole my heart long ago. Pulaos saved my mother and grandmother hours in the kitchen; they’d make a large pot and all that was needed was a salad or pickle on the side. I’m keeping that principle in mind with this winter-themed chicken pulao, jewelled with cranberries and cashews, alongside an orange and piquillo pepper salad. You can serve the meal with a bowl of salted plain yoghurt.

Chicken pulao with cranberries
Prep 15 min
Soak 30 min
Cook 1 hr 30 min
Serves 4-6

370g basmati rice
1kg chicken legs and thighs, bone in
Fine sea salt
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or ghee
5cm cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom pods, crushed
4 cloves
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 large yellow onion (300g), peeled and cut into half-rings
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger (about 5cm piece)
2 medium carrots (about 45g), peeled and diced
60g green peas
35g sweetened dried cranberries
30g whole cashews

Clean the rice of any debris, then rinse in a fine mesh sieve with running tap water, until the water is no longer cloudy. Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes.

While the rice soaks, prepare the chicken. Put the chicken with 960ml of water and half a teaspoon salt in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Bring the water to a boil over a medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and separate the chicken from the liquid. Measure the liquid stock, it will be around 480ml. Add enough water to the stock to bring it back to 960ml. Wipe the saucepan dry with a paper towel.

Heat the saucepan over a medium heat and add half the oil. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper and turmeric, and cook the spices for 45 seconds, until fragrant. Add the onion and saute for about four minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for one minute until fragrant. Drain the rice and discard the soaking water. Add the rice to the onions in the saucepan and fry the grains for three minutes, add the reserved stock with the chicken pieces. Add the carrots and peas. Stir in one teaspoon of salt. Bring the liquid to a boil over a medium heat, cover the saucepan with a lid, and cook for about 20 minutes until all the liquid evaporates. Remove from heat and let the saucepan sit covered for five minutes.

Heat the remaining oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Fry the cranberries and cashews in the oil until the cranberries turn plump and the cashews turn light brown, about one minute. Season with salt, remove from the heat, add the cranberries and cashews to the rice and fold carefully. Serve the pulao warm with plain yoghurt.

Orange and piquillo pepper salad
If you are making the candied walnuts, mix 30g raw walnuts with 25g brown sugar, two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and a half-teaspoon of fine sea salt. Spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake in a 150C (130C fan)/gas 2 oven for 15 minutes until golden-brown. Let the nuts cool completely to room temperature before using. They can also be made in advance and store in an airtight container for up to four weeks.

Prep 30 min
Serves 4-6

1 large orange (about 150g), peeled and segmented
6 piquillo peppers from a jar, drained and cut into thin strips
6 spring onions, trimmed, both white and green parts thinly sliced into rings
120g shallots or red onions (about 3), peeled and cut into thin rings
3g fresh mint leaves, torn
30g candied walnuts
1 tsp red pepper flakes (such as Aleppo)
1 tsp ground black pepper
60ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
Fine sea salt

In a large bowl, place the orange supremes, peppers, spring onions, shallots/red onion, mint and walnuts. Sprinkle over the red pepper flakes and black pepper. Mix the olive oil and lime juice in a small bowl, and drizzle over the ingredients in the bowl. Add the lime zest, season with salt, and toss the ingredients to coat well. Taste and season, if needed.