Chicken and rice congee

Chicken and rice congee

Canja de galinha do campo

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Serves
4
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When I was little and not feeling well my grandmother would make me a restorative bowl of canja, a magical broth made from rice and shredded chicken. In Portugal, we say cautela e caldos de galinha nunca fizeram mal a ninguém, which means ‘no harm ever came from caution or chicken broth’.

Canja is still my happy food. I like the rice to be overcooked to the point that it is falling apart, rather like a Chinese congee. I use chicken thighs, as breast meat would be a little dry (traditionally, canja would have been made with leftover bones from a roast chicken, so having any meat at all is a bit of a luxury). Feel free to adapt the recipe by adding pork ribs, seared Ibérico pork, game, duck or whatever takes your fancy; the principles remain the same. Try serving it with a poached egg and some crispy garlic and fennel shavings.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
600g bone-in chicken thighs, skin on
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
a small bunch coriander, leaves picked and stalks finely chopped
1 mild long green or red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
5g fresh root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
200g short-grain white rice, preferably portuguese carolino, japanese sushi or spanish bomba rice
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 litre chicken stock (or water)
1/2 lemon, Freshly squeezed juiced
1-2 teaspoons iberico pork fat or duck fat, (optional)
sea salt flakes
ground white pepper

For the piso, and to serve

Quantity Ingredient
1 garlic clove, finely crushed
1/2 lemon, Finely grated zested
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

Method

  1. Rub the chicken thighs with 1 tablespoon oil. Heat a pan over a medium heat and add the chicken skin-side down, ensuring maximum contact between skin and pan, and cook until golden brown. After 2 minutes, season the flesh side of the chicken with salt and pepper. Remove it from the pan, drain off excess fat and set aside.
  2. Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan. Add the onion and fennel, season with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the coriander stalks, chilli, garlic and ginger and cook gently for 1–2 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. Add the rice, bay leaves and cinnamon stick and cook for a few minutes to toast the rice, then pour in 1 litre water and the stock.
  3. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan and ensure that all the ingredients are fully submerged, then bring to the boil over a medium heat. Skim off any foam but try not to remove too much fat, as this contains all the flavour. Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is very tender and the rice has collapsed completely to a thick, glutinous consistency, whisking occasionally to help break down the starch. If it starts to look a little dry, top it up with equal parts water and chicken stock. You are looking for the consistency of loose porridge.
  4. Once cooked, remove the chicken, bay leaves and cinnamon. When the chicken has cooled slightly, pull the meat off the bones, roughly chop it, then return it to the pan. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. I also like to add a little extra Ibérico pork fat or duck fat.
  5. To make the piso — Mix together the coriander leaves (reserving a few to garnish), garlic and lemon zest with a generous pinch of salt and pepper to make a paste. Stir in the olive oil.
  6. To serve — Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle over piso and olive oil generously and sprinkle with the reserved coriander leaves.
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