Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Cocoa Nib Spiced Chicken Breast with Coconut Rice and Mango

I bought a bag of cocoa nibs from a chocolate farm when we were on vacation in Hawaii, and have been waiting for a chance to use them. There was some coconut rice left over from a couple of nights ago, 2 beautiful ripe mangoes and some sugar snap peas in the fridge. This is my version of a rice bowl...with the chicken breasts rubbed with a combination of ground cocoa nibs, chipotle chilies and cinnamon, and served over the warm rice with toasted pumpkin seeds. It was delicious!

These are the cocoa nibs. They are basically cocoa beans that have been roasted, removed from the shell, or husk, and broken up into smaller pieces.

They have a chocolate taste, but aren't sweet, and can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes.

They are a bit like a crunchy nut in texture, and contain a large amount of anti-oxidants.

To make the rub for the chicken breasts, place the following in a spice grinder:

1 tablespoon cocoa nibs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4  teaspoon dried chipotle chili
1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns

Grind until fine and then combine with:
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
pinch of salt

Rub the cocoa nib blend over the chicken breasts, wrap them well and place them in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 350F.

Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan and add 1/4 cup of raw pumpkin seeds. Cook, stirring often, until the seeds start to crackle and pop.

When the seeds are lightly coloured, season lightly with salt and remove from the pan to cool.

In the same frying pan, heat some olive oil, and brown the chicken breasts on both sides.

Remove the chicken from the pan and place in an ovenproof dish. Finish cooking the chicken in the pre-heated oven, while you prepare the rest of the rice bowl components.

Add some chicken stock to the frying pan, and allow it to reduce slightly; this will be your sauce.

Cook, or heat, coconut rice. (see the post Rice for more information on cooking coconut rice).

I added a couple of strips of lime zest to the pan while the rice was heating up.

Peel and slice or dice the 2 mangoes. Remove the strings and tips from the sugar snap peas and blanch them in salted boiling water. Drain. Remove the cooked chicken from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before slicing it thinly.

Assemble the rice bowls: cover the bottom of the bowl with the hot coconut rice, top this with mango, snap peas and chicken. Pour a bit of the sauce over the chicken and rice, and sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds and finely chopped green onions.

The chicken has a lovely spiciness to it, with a hint of chocolate in the background. The coconut flavour in the rice complements both the cocoa nibs and the fresh mango, and the sugar snap peas and pumpkin seeds give a nice crunch to the dish.

  • Rice bowls are a great way to use up leftover rice. Simply reheat it and top it with a selection of vegetables and meat, usually cut into bite sized pieces. Think colour and texture with your choices; this always makes it more interesting to look at and to eat!
  • The rice and other components can be layered in a deep re-sealable container and taken to work or school for lunch. Just pour your favourite dressing over and eat.
  • Adding herbs, spices or other ingredients to the rice during cooking gives you an opportunity to add layers of flavour throughout the dish. Think about the cooking liquid...stock or coconut milk; fresh herbs such as thyme or rosemary; spices such as cloves, bayleaves or cumin seeds.
  • For crunch think beyond just toasted nuts or seeds...think of vegetables such as sugar snap peas, fresh red peppers or cucumber slices; think of fruits...thinly sliced apples or pears.
  • Any meat or fish is perfect for this dish...salmon from last night's barbecue, cooked prawns or shrimp, the last bit of chicken from the roast.
  • Make it vegetarian by adding beans, chick peas, more vegetables...bok choy, spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, sweet green peas...marinade some tofu in soy sauce, garlic and minced fresh ginger and stir fry before adding it to the rice bowl.
  • I used chicken stock along with the flavours in the pan to make a broth/sauce. You can use a vinaigrette or plain soy sauce, plain or diluted with juice, instead.
  • I have a small coffee grinder that is dedicated to grinding spices. It works really well, and is easy to clean out after each use. This is important...different spices have very different flavour profiles and you want to avoid the transfer of whichever spice/s you used last to your current dish.
  • Instead of rice, use cooked noodles, couscous, quinoa or small pasta shapes such as tiny shells or orzo.
  • Cocoa nibs can be purchased online, but are also available at some higher end grocery, or specialty stores. Other uses for them include sprinkling them onto a salad, steeping them in milk or cream and using this to make custard, adding them to breads or cookies, adding them to vinaigrettes or sauces. They have the flavour of chocolate without all the added sugar.

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