Poule au riz au safran

This is a wonderfully old-fashioned and comforting dish, from one of my favourite cookbooks, Plats du Jour by Patience Gray and Pimrose Boyd (published 1957). I can’t recommend this book too highly; it’s so old-fashioned that words like pizza and courgettes are printed in italics, and the recipes owe absolutely nothing to fashion and everything to love of good, simple food.

Anyway, you would normally use a boiling chicken for this, difficult to find nowadays, so just use a nice free-range chicken and reduce the poaching time.

1 large chicken
1 onion stuck with 2 cloves
1 clove garlic
1 litre water
1 glass white wine
1 stock cube (or substitute home-made stock for the water)
salt and pepper

For the rice:
1 dsp chicken fat or oil
1 onion
250 g risotto rice
salt and pepper

25 g butter
1 dsp flour
2 egg yolks
lemon juice

Simmer the chicken gently in the water in a covered pan with all the other ingredients in the first list. It will take 1 to 1 1/2 hours depending on the size and age of the chicken.

When it is almost done, chop an onion and fry gently in the chicken fat. Add the rice, stir to coat with fat, then pour in about half a litre of the chicken poaching liquid. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and saffron, cover, and cook gently for about 30 minutes, until the rice is cooked and almost all the stock absorbed.

Put the chicken on a dish and keep warm while you make the sauce. Melt the butter in a pan and make a roux with the flour. Strain in the remaining stock and bring to the boil, stirring, till it thickens. Beat the egg yolks and pour on a little of the hot sauce, stirring. Then pour this mixture back into the pan and heat gently till it thickens — do not boil! Squeeze the juice of a lemon into it at the last moment and adjust seasoning to taste.

Pour some of the sauce over the chicken and surround with the rice and the rest of the sauce in a sauceboat, with a green vegetable or fried wild mushrooms.

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