Occasional recipes: chicken with brown things

I must credit Teresa Nielsen-Hayden with this one, but her version on Making Light provides three full meals. Here’s how to make one meal for three people.


  • a couple of chicken breasts
  • 150g Israeli couscous. [I hadn’t met this before but the grains are noticeably bigger than normal couscous. Couldn’t find it in Tesco: Best Beloved had to get Mediterranean couscous from Waitrose. As I believe Israel is right next to the Mediterranean, this obviously sufficed.]
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped cashew nuts [well, whole cashew nuts zapped a couple of times in the food processor. Teresa goes for hazelnuts but, hey.]
  • 1 small handful mixed dried mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
Soak the mushrooms in a pint of boiling water for at least half an hour. Then chop them up, but keep the water they soaked in. Also make yourself two pints of stock: chicken or vegetable will do.
Lightly fry the couscous in oil to brown it. I’ve not done this before but Teresa said, so why not? Honestly can’t tell if it made a difference, though … Do likewise with the nuts. Also fry the onions. Chop up the chicken and brown well and good in oil.
Whether you do all this in series or parallel is a function of time, cooking utensils and oven top space. What matters is that at some point you have browned chicken, mushrooms, nuts and onions which you can bung altogether with the mushroom broth into a wok. Simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, add the couscous and simmer for a further 15.
This is when you want that extra stock, because the couscous soaks up liquid like there’s no tomorrow. In the remaining 15 minutes I got through the full 2 pints. I could maybe have simmered it a bit longer because it was only a little bit sloppy. But not very.
Teresa says season to taste while it’s simmering and suggests sage, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of smoked sweet paprika. I didn’t use any of those because frankly the mushroom broth makes it strong and salty enough. However, shortly before it’s done, add the dry sherry.
Wash down with red wine and Best Beloved’s delicious lemon sponge layer pudding, but that recipe is not mine to share.