This is a very simple meal to prepare, the most onerous part of the preparation needing only a few finely chopped onions. And once it is in the oven, whilst the spelt is soaking up the flavours of the onions and anchovies and stock produced from the juices of the chicken, you get an hour to do something else.
This ancient grain is an excellent, high fibre substitute for rice – you can use either the pearled type, which has the outer layer of bran removed, or the whole grain type which has a more robust, slightly nuttier flavour; both are very good.
You could use barley if you can’t get spelt.
This recipe is for 4 but it’s easy to scale it up or down if you need to.
4 medium onions, peeled and chopped into very small pieces
A 95g jar of anchovies in oil – the pinkish brown ones that you can also get in tins
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
250g pearled or whole spelt grains, rinsed under cold water and drained
A pinch or two of dried thyme
The finely grated zest and juice of a medium lemon
A small glass of dry vermouth or white wine
4 organic free range chicken portions – legs and thighs are good
Water or chicken stock
The leaves from a medium bunch of parsley, finely chopped, or some tender greens such as ramsons or baby spinach.
Preheat the oven to 180c
Put the onions, anchovies (including the oil) and the rapeseed oil in a robust casserole with a well-fitting lid and stir them together over gentle heat.
When the aromas start to rise, stir in the spelt, thyme, lemon zest and juice
Add the vermouth or wine and stir well, scraping up any bits stuck to the pan
Sit the chicken pieces on top of the spelt etc. and add enough water or stock to just cover the spelt, leaving the chicken just about sitting on the top in a shallow puddle.
Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt flakes
Put the lid on the casserole and place it in the preheated oven for 1 hour by which time the onions and anchovies will have melted into the spelt and the chicken should be tender.
Remove the lid and leave the casserole in the oven for a further 15 minutes or so for the chicken to brown.
Just before serving, stir in the parsley or other tender greens.