Poached chicken & rice, French-style

by Malou Herkes

A simple, flavoursome stew, inspired by Malou’s French grandmother

Cooking a whole bird in a pot of water will supply you with a whole week’s worth of meals. Not only will you get juicy, tender meat, but also a deliciously flavoured stock. This is my French grandmother’s recipe, and while it doesn’t look pretty, it certainly tastes good. The ingredients you use to make your stock can change depending on the season and what you’ve got in the cupboards, but generally it follows the same rules; a few vegetables or their trimmings, some garlic cloves, herb stalks and a few spices. I’ve also added a few chillies for a nice bit of heat, although I’m sure she wouldn’t have approved. You can use the stock to cook your rice too, if you like, or save it for the following days: noodle broths, chicken risotto and pasta en brodo are my favourite chasers to this recipe.


1 whole free-range chicken
500g long-grain rice
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour

For the stock:
1kg mixture vegetables, such as onions, carrots, swede, potato, fennel
1 bunch of fresh parsley
1 bunch of spring onions and / or 2 small leeks
4 cloves of garlic
3 fresh red chillies
1 tsp peppercorns
4 cloves
1 bouquet garnis, a bunch of woody herbs or 2 bay leaves


To cook the chicken, fill a large, deep pot with cold water and place over a high heat. Add the chicken, breast-side down, so it’s completely submerged in the liquid. If you have the giblets, add these too. Bring it to the boil for 10 mins, skimming any scum from the surface.

Meanwhile, peel and chop your vegetables (you can save any veggie offcuts in a bag in the freezer and use them to flavour more stock at a later date). There’s no need to cut them too small—quarter onions or fennel, halve leeks, carrots or parsnips lengthways, cut other root vegetables into rough chunks. Throw in herb stalks and spring onions, reserving the fronds, leaves or the sweeter green parts for garnish. Bash garlic and pierce chillies.

Add it all to the pot along with the peppercorns, cloves, bouquet garnis and 1 tbsp salt. Bring it all back to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour 15 mins, or until the chicken is cooked—this will depend on the size of your bird. If it’s relatively small, check after an hour by piercing the thigh joint with a knife. If the juices run clear, it’s done. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a large plate or tray, cover and keep warm.

To cook the rice, add it to a pan with 900ml of boiling water (or the stock, if you like). Bring it to the boil, then cover and reduce to low. Cook until tender and the liquid has been absorbed.

To make the sauce, start with a roux. Melt the butter in a pan, then whisk in the flour until it forms a paste. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in about 600ml of the stock until smooth. Bring it to the boil, then leave it to simmer for 5 to 10 mins. If you feel it needs to be creamier, add a bit more butter or a dash of cream, then season with salt and pepper. Finely chop and stir through any herb leaves or spring onion greens. Carve or shred the meat. Spoon the rice onto plates, pour over the sauce, pile the chicken on top, then tuck in.

Recipe & image: Malou Herkes