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I like using whole grains for all the goodness, but you can certainly use regular white Basmati rice, just don't substitute with the short grain, quick cooking versions. The rice will not get the chance to absorb all the fragrant spices and flavors. The key to cooking brown rice in general is to soak it in water anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to reduce cooking time. For this recipe, wash the rice well until the rinsing water is clear and soak it for 30 minutes. Drain it well and let it dry.
For the chicken, bring five cups of water to a simmer. Add cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cloves, cardamom and salt. Add chicken and bring to a gentle boil for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size and cut of the chicken. Drain stock and set aside. Cool chicken and pull meat, toss in half the spice mix and set aside.
To prepare the mis en place, blanch the almonds for 5 minutes. Drain and let cool. Peel skin and toast in a skillet, stirring around to toast consistently. You can also use the broil setting in the toaster over to do that, just stay close as to not burn them. Do the same for the pine nuts and chestnuts.
Mix your spices together in a little bowl (including the saffron) and set aside. Zest an orange and set aside. Soak the raisins for about 10 minutes, drain and set aside.
In a heavy stainless steel pot, heat the oil, add the dry rice and toast a little before adding the stock (or water if preferred). Add the spices, salt and pepper and mix well. Add the stock, bring to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes until the liquid has evaporated. For best measurement of liquid to rice, liquid should be an inch over the level of rice. Just dip your index finger in the water to touch the tip of the rice, the water should be at the level of the first knuckle. Once the water evaporates, turn off heat. To serve, place a layer of rice on the serving dish, top it with a layer of nuts, raisins and zest, repeat a layer of rice and a layer of nuts until all done. This will ensure that all the components are mixed properly without breaking the grains. If using chicken, add the pulled chicken pieces as another layer. Top with a few nuts, raisins and zest as you like.
Spiced Chicken and Brown Basmati Rice with nuts
For the spice mix (divide finished mix in half)
3 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp coriander, ground
1/2 tsp cumin, ground
1/2 tsp mint, dried and ground
1/4 tsp sweet pepper, ground
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp turmeric, ground
1/8 tsp anise, ground
Pinch of chili (optional)
For the chicken and stock
1 small organic chicken, quartered
5 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves, whole
6 cardamom pods, cracked
2 bay leaves
1 tsp sea salt
For the rice
2 cups brown Basmati, organic
4 cups chicken stock (or water)
Half of spice mix
For the topping mix
1 cup almonds, skinned and toasted
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
10 chestnuts, roasted, peeled and halved
1/2 raisins, soaked (you can substitute for cranberries)
1 tablespoon orange zest (Zest of 1 orange)