Another year, another Diana Henry cookbook. This year’s release, From the Oven to the Table is subtitled simple dishes that look after themselves. I LOVE a traybake recipe. Nigella has long been a champion of the well-balanced meal that cooks within the confines of a roasting tin. More recently, Rukmini Iyer has been churning out ingenious books as part of her Roasting Tin series based around this very simple style of cooking. Enter Diana Henry into the fray. Although not quite as simple as Nigella or Rukmini’s recipes, they still involve relatively little prep and transform from disparate ingredients into a delicious meal with the heat of the oven.
Until recently, I had spent five months as a vegetarian with vegan leanings, but I have rather fallen off the wagon. So the first recipe I’ve attempted from the book is the South American-spiced chicken, black beans and rice with avocado, pickled chillies and soured cream. The whole recipe cooks in a shallow casserole or oven proof sauté pan. The chicken is browned in the pan then the onions and peppers are softened in the chicken fat. The black beans, tomatoes and spices are stirred into the softened onions then the rice is sprinkled on top. Lastly, the browned chicken is returned on top of the rice and stock added to the pan before a 40 minute stay in the oven.
Diana states that you have to use a 12 inch pan and the size is very important. I’ll confess that I don’t own the specified pan so I tried to squeeze it all in my cast iron frying pan. It didn’t fit all the stock in one go, so I had to top up the pan halfway through, but it all worked out well.
The dish is very tasty. The cumin and cinnamon spicing is subtle in a comforting way. The onions and peppers lend the whole dish a welcome sweetness and the basmati rice is sticky and rich from cooking under the chicken thighs, almost risotto-like. I was concerned, given all the liquid in the pan, that the chicken skin was going to be soft and soggy but it crisped up beautifully.
The leftovers were also delicious, reheated in the oven the next day. The only thing I missed was the pickled chilis, but Lidl let me down. I think it would have added a nice tang to cut through some of the richness of the rice, avocado and soured cream.
You can find the recipe on p.155 of From the Oven to the Table, available on amazon.