What is it about autumn and winter that makes me want to cook with lemon??
Is it the power of the citrus and vitamin C? Is it a little bit of zest added to shortening days and greying skies? Is it how well the tang follows previous days’ cuisine that may become heavy in spices and chilli as we slide into our cool-weather repertoire?
Whatever the reason, I have rammed lemon quite-literally into the rhelm of chicken. While I by no means profess to be the first to do this, here is the first of two tremendous lemony dishes to add zest to cold-weather cooking:
I was inspired to create this for a little overnight holiday to the Blue Mountains. Staying with 8 girlfriends in a lodge with an open fire and a hot tub will undoubtedly invite copious and varietal wine and champagne sampling. And so I thought that a hearty meal consisting of ratatouille (which would nicely accompany a smokey red*), cous cous (neutral), and a lemon chicken risotto (for those with the whites and the sparkling*) would be just the thing for a cold mountain escape.
* note here that food accompanies wine. I think some wines are so integral to the experience that you are trying create, such as here the open fire will necessitate a quality red, and the hot tub warrants a generous stock of bubbles, that the food must fit in almost unobtrusively so that it does not shame the other components. Just as good meal can be destroyed by a bad wine, so too does the opposite apply.
600g skin free chicken breast, cut into 5cm cubes
2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/2 brown onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed*
250mL white wine
500mL chicken stock
1 kettle of boiled water
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cracked pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
Grate the peel of two lemons for zest.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 5 minutes or until chicken just starts to brown. Cook for 2 minutes but ensure that chicken remains tender. Cover with al-foil and set aside.
Add 1 tbsp olive oil and chopped onion to a large saucepan or stovetop casserole dish and heat on medium heat on the stovetop. Cook onion, stirring continuously until soft and translucent (2-5 min, do not allow to brown).
Add rice and stir with a wooden spoon to coat rice with oil and onion. Stir for 1 minute until all grains appear slightly glassy.
Add 1/2 cup of wine and stir until liquid is absorbed.
Add lemon zest and squeeze the two lemons to add lemon juice and stir to combine.
Add 1/2 cup of stock and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Add 1/2 cup hot/boiling water and stir until absorbed. Continue adding wine, stock and water 1/2 cup at a time, while stirring and allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding the next cup. Do this for 20 minutes. Proceed to drink the rest of the wine while this is happening.
Add the cooked chicken pieces and the chopped dill. Stir to combine.
Add the final volumes of wine, stock and water in sequence while stirring, until rice is soft and the mixture is creamy.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve into four bowls or plates. Serve with a side salad of greek salad or baby spinach leaves with balsamic glaze.
* I haven’t added garlic here. If you like garlic then add crushed garlic to the initial cooking stage of the chicken or onion.