Fried Chicken with Fresh Basil Risotto

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.


2 chicken breast steaks
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
A pinch of salt
To make the risotto:
150g risotto rice
A generous scoop of butter
Olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
A glass of white wine
2 pints of vegetable stock
50g grated Parmesan
A double handful of fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp pesto

Serves 2

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 in half.

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.