In this dish, the spicy, crispy fried chicken is balanced
by the fresh flavours of the basil and the creaminess of the risotto. It might
seem like the two halves of the dish are from different cuisines but actually they
work really well together, making a lovely indulgent dish.
A generous scoop of butter
2 pints of vegetable stock
A double handful of fresh basil, chopped
Start by preparing the chicken – you won’t cook it until
the end, but it’s good to have it all ready because the risotto will need your
attention later on. In a pestle & mortar, grind the cumin seeds,
peppercorns and salt into a fine powder. Of course, if you haven’t got a pestle
and mortar, you can just use ground cumin and pepper, but the flavours are a
lot fresher & spicier if you grind your own. Sprinkle the mix over the
chicken and spread it around evenly on each side, then cover the chicken and
put it aside for a moment. By the way, the reason I’ve specified chicken steaks
is that they tend to be thinner than chicken breasts, so they’ll cook faster
and turn crispier.
Next, make the risotto. Start by finely dicing the onion
and the garlic, and get it sizzling gently in a large pan, with the butter and
a drizzle of olive oil. Use boiling water to make up your stock (you probably
won’t need it all, but it’s good to have extra). Once the onion has softened
and started to turn translucent, add the rice and stir through, then turn up
the heat and pour in the wine. There should be a hiss and the wine should
sizzle away quickly, leaving behind a lovely mellow flavour.
Now, begin to add the stock a bit at a time, stirring
regularly as the rice absorbs the liquid. By the time you’ve used up about two
thirds of the stock, the rice should be nearly cooked – have a taste to make
sure, and keep adding stock as necessary. Now is the time to cook your chicken
– put a generous drizzle of olive oil into a frying pan on a high heat, and
once it’s gotten up to a high temperature, add the chicken.
Make sure you keep an eye on the risotto while the
chicken fries, so that it doesn’t dry out and stick to the bottom of the pan.
Once the rice is cooked, take the risotto off the heat, stir through a little
more butter and the Parmesan, and put it to one side with a lid on while you
finish off the chicken. Once it’s golden brown on both sides, it should be
cooked all the way through, although you can check by cutting one of the steaks
To serve, add the fresh basil and pesto to the risotto
and stir through, then put a generous spoonful on a plate and top with the
crispy chicken. Wash down with the rest of the white wine.