Say that you’re looking for a christmas dinner that is as abundant, festive and luxurious as the traditional turkey with trimmings but much lighter, healthier ánd Ayurvedically responsible. Say that you want a dinner that definitely screams “Party time!” without having to pay for it in the digestive department (and neither the clothing department if that sort of thing is important to you) the following week. Or just say you’re bored with the same old, same old christmas dinner every year. Look no further my friends. Salvation is near. Let me introduce this phenomenal meal to you that will keep you busy enough in the kitchen to feel you’re making something special but won’t have you slaving over the stove 3 days in advance. And as added bonus, as is appropriate for any self respecting christmas meal, you are certain to receive oeh’s and ah’s when taking all the bits and pieces to the table.
This Hianese chicken dish is in it’s most basic form chicken slowly poached in a really good chicken stock and served over plain white rice. But I’ve oomphed it up a bit for it to be X-mas worthy. And in my own humble opinion I’ve succeeded. I took two recipes from my Ayurvedic food hero Anjum Anand and the Australian born chef Ben O’Donoghue and combined them to make what to me is the ultimate chicken and rice dish. But, in case you’ve been reading this post with a frown on your face, first a word on meat since so far this blog has been meatless.
Contrary to common belief Ayurveda is not necessarily a completely vegetarian lifestyle. Since it does originate in India, a country that both due to religious as well as economic reasons consists of a large proportion of vegetarians, many people just assume that Ayurvedic meals never include meat. However meat and fish were certainly eaten in acient times when the principles of Ayurveda were commited to ink but, as with most things back in those days, the use of meat was much more balanced than it is in our modern day era. The most important criterea for eating meat (which hold true for any- and everything you eat by the way) is whether you are able to properly digest it and what effect it has on your dosha. Vata’s that need grounding often do well with adding some meat to their diets. It should always be really well cooked and is best in the form of a stew or soup with plenty of digestive aiding spices. Kapha’s need very little meat and do best eating the lightest meats or fish available once a week or so. Pitta’s can digest meat oke due to their strong digistive fire but in the long run they may become aggressive and acidic from eating too much of it. So they too need very little meat and should especially avoid all red meats.
In ancient times also very small amounts of meat were consumed maybe once or twice a week with the meat being an addition to the meal rather than the principle ingredient on the plate. Meat was of, what we would consider nowadays, the highest quality and treated with the utmost respect. Finally the type of meat choosen per individual dosha was very important with poultry and fish being best for all types and lamb oke for Vata’s. Meat was considered to build tissue very rapidly (but of poorer quality than other food groups like grains and vegetables) and was often given in the form of stock when a quick fortifier was needed by people who had suffered severe injury or were recovering from illness.
Personally I eat meat or fish about once or twice a week and more so in the colder months of the year than the warmer ones. I also go for the highest quality of poultry and fish I can find and afford, eat small quantities of it and tend to stay clear of red meat and pork. On rare occasions I might have some lamb but always in the form of a stew with lots of spices to make it easier to digest.
Now before all you die hard vegetarians start giving me beef about this subject (no pun intended) let me quote the title of a famous Billie Holiday song for you. “Ain’t nobody’s business if I do.” When it comes to meat consumption I have to agree with Billie. I fully respect everybody’s opinion on the subject but to me it really is a very personal choice. This is how I live and this is what I teach my clients. But please do the thing that makes YOU feel healthy, happy, vibrant and balanced.
So, with that out of the way let’s not keep the chicken waiting any longer, shall we? The yummyness ( I know this isn’t proper english but you catch my drift don’t you?) of this dish totally depends on the quality of your stock because the rice that goes with it is also cooked in it. So take the time to make a really good one. After that it’s all the tasty and colourful side dishes that turn this dish into a genuine festive winner. I made sure this meal featured all the 6 tastes that are so important in Ayurveda (sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent) to give you that feeling of total satisfaction after eating it. And so to go with the chicken and rice I made side dishes of spicy gingered edamame beans, sweet and sour plum sauce flavoured with star anise and cinnamon, stir fried asian bitter greens with mushrooms and marbled eggs steeped in jasmine tea. If that doesn’t get your jingle bells tinkling I don’t know what will. The red rice gives a nice christmassy touch to the whole thing and is really satisfying. Drape the chicken pieces on top of the rice but serve the side dishes in seperate bowls to give a sense a plenty and so your guests can help themselves to seconds. It is christmas after all, so seconds are part of the deal…
This dish is good for all three dosha’s so invite the whole family and than some and be sure to enjoy! Pitta’s and Vata’s just omit the raw spring onion to garnish the dish. And Pitta go easy on the chili.
PS: The pictures for this posts (except the one of the chicken in the pot) where taken on my (crappy but much loved) Tablet by my dear friend Vanja who is a culinary journalist and, as you can see, knows what’s she’s doing! Besides being a genius with food, words and the camera she also continiously cracks me up. Thanks bubba!
Hianese chicken with 4 side dishes
(Adapted from “Anjum’s eat right for your body type” cookbook, “The best”cookbook, “The recipe link website” and Nicola Graimes’ “New Vegetarian Kitchen” cookbook)
Enough for 4 to 6 people
The jasmine tea eggs take the longest time to prepare but are very easy to make. They should be started one day ahead of time. The edamame beans and plum chutney can also be made one day in advance or on the morning of your event. The chutney can be served at room temperature but it’s nicer to reheat the edamame beans a little bit before serving. The stock can also be made a day earlier but make sure to reheat it well before using it for cooking the rice and poaching the chicken breasts. If you don’t eat meat make a really good vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock and of course leave out the chicken all together. The greens should be done at the last minute but don’t forget to soak the dried mushroom ahead of time.
Jasmine tea steeped boiled eggs
- 4 eggs boiled for 6 minutes and than left to cool
- 500 ml water
- 2 tablespoons jasmine tea leaves
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 2 to 3 pieces tangerine peel
Crack the boiled and cooled eggs all over gently by lightly tapping them on a counter top. Make sure the cracks are deep enough to expose a bit of the eggs skin but not so deep that the shell falls off the egg.
Now put all other ingredients in a saucepan where the 4 eggs will fit in snuggly. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to a very soft simmer and gently add the cracked eggs. Put a lid on top and simmer for about 20 minutes. Than take the pan off the heat and let cool for an hour or so before putting in the fridge to steep overnight.
The next day take the eggs out of the liquid, peel them and let them come to room temperature before serving.
This makes more than you will need but you can store the chutney in the fridge and use within a week or two. It also makes a great X-mas gift.
- 400 grams ripe red plums, deseeded and cut in chunks
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves
- 2 star anise
- 120 ml water
- 1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- salt to taste
Simmer all ingredients on low heat for about 30 minutes in a snug pan until the plums have become very soft and the mixture has turned thick enough to spoon. Stir every now and again making sure the bottom of the pan doesn’t catch and add a dash of extra water if necessary. Check for the sweet and sour balance and add a dash more of maple syrup or rice vinegar if necessary. Remove the cinnamon, cloves and star anise before serving.
Spicy edamame beans with mint and ginger
- 250 grams cooked edamame beans (I use good quality frozen ones. But use fresh if you can find them.)
- 1 teaspoon ghee
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon finely minced mint
- 1/2 red chili deseeded and chopped very finely
Heat everything up in a small pan and season with salt and pepper.
For the chicken and rice
- 2 liters water
- 2 chicken thighs with legs ( I used soup chicken)
- 2 spring onions or 1 regular onion in quarters
- 2 bruised lemon grass stalks
- 1 red chili pricked a few times with the tip of a sharp knife
- 1 star anise
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 lime leaves
- 2 1/2 cm piece of fresh ginger peeled
- 2 cloves of garlic peeled
- 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce (or a bit more to taste)
- 4 small chicken breasts (about 100 to 150 grams per breast)
Put all ingredients, except the chicken breasts, in a large pot. Bring to the boil and than lower the heat. Let simmer without a lid for about 45 minutes until the stock is fragrant and tasty. Remove the chicken thighs and legs and reserve for another use. (You can pluck the meat of them and use it for making fried rice for example). Measure of 1 liter of the stock for the rice and keep the rest for poaching the chicken breasts.
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 240 grams red thai wild rice (if you are using a different type of red rice check for cooking instructions as they may vary per variety of rice)
- 1 liter of hot chicken stock
Heat the ghee in a medium sized pan. Fry the onion until translucent. Than add the garlic and fry for another 40 seconds. Add the rice and make sure all kernels are coated in a bit of ghee. Pour in the chicken stock (Careful! It may splatter) and bring to a rapid boil. Now lower the heat to it’s lowest setting and simmer with a lid on for 45 to 50 minutes until the rice is done and all the moisture is evaporated. The kernels will retain a bit of chewyness but will be soft in the center. Stir the rice with a fork and add some salt if necessary.
Now have the remaining stock ready in another pan where you can fit the 4 chicken breasts in snuggly. Bring to a simmer and poach the breasts for 10 to 12 minutes depending on their thickness. Take them out of the liquid and keep warm by wrapping in foil. Right before serving slice them in medium sized slices and drape on top of the red rice. Drizzle a bit of the stock over the chicken slices and rice and garnish with some finely sliced spring onion.
Strir fried asian greens with dried and enoki mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
- 1 (red) onion sliced in very thin slices
- 1 teaspoon ginger in very thin match sticks
- 35 grams of dried chinese mushrooms (I used money mushrooms, for good fortune!) soaked in a bowl with enough water to cover them all. Let soak for about 1 hour after which you might want to slice off a bit of the stems if still tough.
- 1 bunch of enoki mushroom
- 500 grams Kai-lan or another asian green like bok choy or choy sum roughly cut up
When the dried mushrooms are ready drain them and cut them up in thin slices. Cut the enoki mushrooms off the lump at the base and seperate them. Keep some for decoration.
Now heat a wok and pour in the coconut oil. Get it really hot before adding the onion. When just slightly browned add the ginger match sticks and mushroom slices and give a good stir or two. Now add the greens and stir fry very quickly until just wilted. Finally drop in the enoki mushroom and give a final stir. Season to taste and garnish with some fresh enoki.