Balkan Chicken Pilaff

This pilaff depends on a strong chicken stock for its flavour. For convenience, cook the chicken and make the stock the day before. Serve the pilaff with a rata-touille and a salad of yogurt with chopped cucumber and mint leaves.

1 small chicken

1 teaspoon salt onion, cut in half whole carrots

4 peppercorns

1 lb. rice, washed, soaked in water for

30 minutes and drained

3 oz. butter onion, finely chopped tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon salt freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 oz. walnuts, chopped

First make the stock. Put the chicken in a pot large enough to hold it comfortably. Pour in enough water to half cover it.

Add the salt, onion, carrots and pepper-corns and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer the chicken for 40 minutes or until it is tender. Let the chicken cool in the stock.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove it from the stock. Put it on a board and cut off all the meat. Put the meat in a covered bowl and refrigerate.

Return the chicken bones to the pan, adding more water if necessary to cover, and simmer for 2 hours. Strain the stock into a bowl, cool, cover and refrigerate. When the fat hardens on the top of the stock, skim it off with a spoon.

To make the pilaff, heat 1 ½ pints of the stock until it boils. Cut the meat of the chicken into strips.

Melt the butter in a large flameproof casserole over moderate heat. Add the chopped onion and fry until it is golden. Add the chicken strips, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, 6 grindings of pepper, basil and walnuts and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Pour in the hot stock, raise the heat and bring the rice to the boil. When it is bubbling briskly, cover with a tight-fitting lid, lower the heat to very low and simmer for 25 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Serve straight from the casserole.

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