On a recent trip to London I stayed at the house of a friend I’ve known for 20 years. They always host me when I’m in town.
My last stay in the UK was late last year, which also happened to mark the start of my friend’s epic ground-floor extension. Fast forward eight months and I’m back at the house, with the huge kitchen extension completed, and to say it is the kitchen of my dreams would be an understatement. Smooth marble worktops, eight-range hob, double oven and a super high-tech dishwasher. “When can I cook?’ I asked, to which they replied, “We were hoping you would say that”.
That evening I whipped up a chili beef stir-fry, making use of the central ‘wok ring’ and using fresh herbs from the garden. I was in kitchen heaven. I love the prep involved in a wok dish; carefully chopping and slicing ingredients, placing them in small bowls under the watchful eye of my host. She would also swiftly remove dishes meant to go into the dishwasher while I concentrated on the wok. The only thing I dislike about cooking is washing up. Filling bowls with soapy water and leaving them to stand is unfortunately just a temporary solution, as I’ve quickly realised dishes don’t wash themselves. I’m not saying I still live like a student, but immersing my hands in a deep bowl of soapy water is not something I enjoy, ever.
In my previous apartments, I have been fortunate to have had space for a dishwasher, but my current place in Dubai doesn’t have the room. Unlike my dream kitchen in the UK, I’m short of endless marble worktops, and only have four rings on my cooker. So any recipe that reduces the amount of washing up is always a winner — cue one-pot meals.
Like a Spanish paella and African jollof rice cooked in single pans, this recipe is an excellent one-pot, hassle-free mid-week meal that can also be frozen.
Okra or ladyfingers are used in many African and South Asian dishes. They’re high in vitamin C, and can boost your immune system. Some people find the texture strange, but it is a versatile ingredient for everything from soups to stews. If it’s not to your liking, you can substitute okra with courgette or mini sweetcorn for this recipe.
I may have a kitchen half the size as the one in London, but this one-pot meal also means half the time and hassle — with absolutely no skimping on taste and minimal washing up.
SPICY CHICKEN WITH OKRA AND TOMATO RICE
Serves 4, prep time 20 minutes, cooking time 1 hour, 20 minutes
• 2 tbsp vegetable oil
• 8 skinless chicken thighs
• 1 chopped onion
• 3 garlic cloves, crushed
• 1 tsp cayenne pepper
• Salt and pepper
• 2 chicken stock cubes
• 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
• 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
• 300ml of boiling water
• 16 okra or lady fingers, washed and sliced
• 1 1/2 cups long grain rice
• 1 seeded chopped tomato
• 1 spring onion chopped
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken thighs for three minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate. In the same pan, add the onion and saute for three minutes until softened. Add garlic, cayenne pepper and season. Return the chicken to the pan. Add 300ml of boiling water, crumble in the stock cubes, thyme and chopped tomatoes. Stir and bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour, until chicken pieces are tender. Then turn up the heat to medium. Stir in the okra and rice; you may need to top up the pan with more boiling water. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes until okra and rice are cooked. Allow to cool for a few minutes, top with chopped spring onion and tomato, serve straight from the pan.
— Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield, follow him on Instagram @gasmarksix