chicken fattee

keeping to the theme of food that is difficult to photograph in an appealing way, let me share with you the culinary delight that is chicken fattee. this moro recipe, chicken fattee with rice, crispbread and yogurt to give it its full name, is a much-loved favourite of mine.

i think it was one of the first recipes i made from casa moro and is one which i return to regularly. it’s not quick to pull together but the different components can all be prepared in advance (i wrap them in foil and warm through gently in the oven) and work together wonderfully.

it is a great dish for feeding people frugally – one chicken can be stretched to feed eight without any problem. i also think it has a wonderful celebratory feel – i pile it up on a large platter in the middle of the table and tell people to help themselves. my vegetarian equivalent is diana henry’s bulgar and spinach pilaf with labneh and chilli roast tomatoes.

moro’s chicken fattee with rice, crispbread and yogurt (serves eight)

for the chicken:

1 medium chicken, about 1.5kg

3 tablespoons olive oil

sea salt & black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

for the tomato sauce:

5 tablespoons olive oil

5 garlic cloves, sliced

a 4cm cinnamon stick

800g tinned plum tomatoes

for the rice:

300g basmati rice, unwashed

sea salt

75g butter

a 4cm cinnamon stick

half a large onion, halved and thinly sliced

500ml water or chicken stock

400g tin of cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed

for the crispbread:

25g butter

2 pitta breads

for the fried aubergine (i roast mine when roasting the chicken):

2 medium aubergines, cut into 3cm cubes and tossed with 1 tsp salt

8 tablespoons olive oil

to finish:

500g greek yogurt, mixed with a clove of garlic crushed with salt

8 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

75g pine nuts, very lightly toasted or fried in olive oil until golden

preheat the oven to 220c. rub two tablespoons of olive oil all over the chicken, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle the ground cloves on top. oil a baking tray with the remaining oil, then add the chicken and roast for about an hour and a quarter, basting every now and then, until the juices run clear (check after an hour, then every 15 minutes or so, as you don't want to overcook it). transfer the bird to a board to rest for 10 minutes, loosely covered with foil. meanwhile, deglaze the roasting tray - pour off most of the oil, place the tray over medium heat, add 150ml water and bring to a gentle simmer. tip in the juices from the cavity of the chicken, then scrape up any caramelised bits on the base of the tray and check for seasoning. add more water if the gravy is too strong.

when the chicken is cool enough to handle, take the meat off the bone and slice into manageable pieces. keep warm until you are ready to serve.

meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the garlic until light brown. add the cinnamon and tomatoes, simmer for half an hour, then season well. keep the sauce warm.

rub the rice in three changes of cold water to wash off the starch. cover with warm water, stir in the salt and soak for 30-60 minutes. melt the butter over a medium heat and add the cinnamon and onion. fry for 10-15 minutes until golden brown, stirring every now and then. remove from the heat and set aside.

to make the crispbread, melt the butter over a low heat. heat the pittas in the oven for a couple of minutes, then split them in half lengthways and brush on both sides with melted butter. place on a board and slice each half in half again lengthways, then cut each piece into four or five triangles. place on a rack and bake in the middle of the oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.

about 15 minutes before you are ready to eat, place the onion pan over a high heat, drain the rice and stir into the onions. fry, stirring, for a minute. add the water (or stock) and the chickpeas. add salt (about half a teaspoon) and cover with either baking parchment or foil followed by a lid. boil fast for five minutes, then turn the heat to low-medium for a further five minutes. at this point, the rice should be cooked, but it will sit happily for 15 minutes.

rinse the salt off the aubergines, then dry with kitchen paper. heat the olive oil in a frying pan or wok over a medium to high heat, then fry the aubergine until soft and brown. cover and keep warm.

now you just have to layer things up on one or more big platters or serving dishes. everything needs to be hot apart from the crispbread and yogurt. the order to layer your plate is first the crispbread, then the rice, then the chicken and its gravy (about four to five tablespoons), then the aubergine, then a scattering of tomato sauce, then a little yogurt and finally lots of chopped parsley and the pine nuts. eat right away