Men Who Cook: Michael Nightingale

Time for the next installment.  This is from Michael Nightingale, who some of you may know as Tattoosydney.  Here is Michael’s story and his recipe for Chicken with Peas and Buttered Rice.   It sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to try it.

I think my favorite part of this series, looking over the recipes I’ve received, is the stories that go with them and the style everyone has taken in writing the recipes themselves.  I’m enjoying it all and if you’re interested, I’d love to hear your story and recipe.  Now here’s Michael:

My name is Michael, and I live in Sydney, Australia. I’m a self taught cook. I lived in a number of share households while at university, and quickly realised that being able to churn out a good meal made me popular with other flatmates. Not only that, it was a barter-able resource. Cooking a meal could be swapped for less pleasant tasks, like cleaning the bathroom. Once I had decided I wanted to learn to cook, I devoured cookbooks, cooking whenever I could and following recipes carefully to learn techniques. Slowly, I moved to using recipes as a guide and then often merely as inspiration, rather than having to follow them slavishly.

I love the challenge of creating, and the joy of taking something special out of the oven, and then eating it. Perhaps most of all, I like that so many people think that cooking is hard, so if you can produce something tasty and good, no matter how simple it really was to make, half the world will think you are a cooking genius.

At the moment, I am obsessed with Portuguese food. We have visited Portugal three times. They are as obsessed with food, wine and coffee as I am. Their cuisine is, in many ways, quite simple. The same ingredients are used again and again – chicken, rice, beef, dried cod, sausage, cabbage, bay leaves, chilli – but yet every dish is subtly, differently flavoursome. There’s often little garnishing or fiddling – often a slice of orange on the side of the plate is all you get for a vegetable – and yet what is on the plate is so good you want seconds or thirds.

This dish is wonderful, slow cooked, easy to make, comfort food. For the full Portuguese experience, serve a couvert to start – a special cheese, homemade sardine paste or some grilled chouriço, with nice bread. The Portuguese always begin the meal with something on the table to whet the appetite (Hint for tourists: if you eat it, you have to pay for it). Serve the chicken with a big red wine, and finish off dinner with fresh fruit or a passionfruit creme caramel.

Chicken with Peas and Buttered Rice

(Serves 4 to 6)

For the chicken:

  • 1 big splash of olive oil
  • 1 onion, 1 stick of celery and 1 large carrot – all diced finely
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 sliced chouriço or other spicy sausage
  • 6 or 8 chicken thighs – preferably with the skin on. Keep the chicken pieces whole, because they will break up a bit during cooking.
  • 1 cup of white (or red) wine
  • 1 tin of tomatoes or 2 fresh tomatoes – chopped
  • 3 cups of peas
  • 1 handful of chopped parsley
  • Piri piri oil (optional)

For the rice:

  • About half a cup of melted butter
  • A splash of olive oil
  • 1 onion – finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups of medium grain rice
  • 3 cups of water or (preferably) vegetable stock
  • 3 garlic cloves – chopped
  • A few sprinkles of paprika

Preheat your oven to about 160°C/320°F.

Put the olive oil in a big heavy based frying pan over a medium-high heat. Your pan will need to hold all of the ingredients except the peas. Add the onion, carrot and celery, and the bay leaves, and fry until the onion becomes a golden colour. Add the chouriço and continue frying until the sausage starts to brown a little at the edges.

Throw in the whole chicken thighs. Stir it all around, and then push the chicken pieces down, moving the vegetable mix out of the way, so the chicken is on the bottom of the pan, and will go a nice brown colour. Stir everything around every now and then, pushing the chicken back down each time. Fry until the chicken is browned all over, but not cooked all the way through.

Pour in the wine and the tomatoes and let it all bubble away for a minute or so. Transfer it all into a casserole dish, put the lid on, and put it in the oven for at least an hour.

Go and have a drink.

About half an hour later, check the chicken. If it’s reduced a lot, add another half a glass of wine. Then, you can start preparing the rice. Put the butter and the olive oil in a saucepan on a high heat, add the onion and the bay leaves and fry until the onion goes translucent. Throw in the rice, the garlic and the paprika and stir it all around for one or two minutes, so the rice smells toasty and is coated in the butter. Put in the water or stock and bring it to the boil, then turn down the flame as low as it will go, put on the lid and leave it for about fifteen minutes. You want to cook this a little longer than you would normally cook rice, so it is a little soft and clings together. Take off the heat, stir around, put a tea towel over the top, put the lid back on and let it stand somewhere until you are ready to serve.

Pour the peas and the parsley into the casserole dish, stir it all around, and put back in the oven for ten minutes before serving.

Serve the chicken and the rice in a big bowl, drizzled with a little piri piri oil and some more fresh parsley if you would like.

Bom proveito!