The memory of a meal stays with me for a long time. The company, the setting, but more often than not, the food itself. I have treasured memories of certain foods and meals. Some are fancy, some are simple. But years later I can still remember them.
Sometimes I like to try and recreate these dishes. Often it doesn’t work, or it’s not quite right. But sometimes, you get a pretty good approximation.
The Veronese black rice is a tricky one to recreate. I ate it once, ten years ago. It was a blisteringly hot day and my friend and I took the train from Venice to Verona. We spent hours walking around and when we stopped for a late lunch, I chose this rice dish from the specials board.
It was a bowl of black rice, with shredded chicken, peas and carrots, all cooked up together. It was so simple and delicious.
I have no pictures of it. I have no idea of the recipe or whether I’m committing some terrible crime against northern Italian cuisine. But in my mind this comes somewhere close. Especially when I need a quick dinner after a long day at work.
I start by cutting the chicken breast into small pieces and cooking in some olive oil.
Then I chop the carrots into very small dice, just as I remember from that restaurant. These go into the pan along with some peas, a stock cube and a glug of white wine. Keep an eye on the pan and stir occasionally until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has reduced.
I then add black rice. On a good day I would cook black rice properly, but if it has been a long day I do sometimes break out a packet of pre prepared black rice, which is far quicker. This goes into the pan with the chicken and vegetables. Break up any lumps and stir to incorporate the chicken, vegetables and sauce. Cook through for 4-5 minutes to make sure the rice is hot.
As I say, it’s been 10 years since I had the original and while I can’t say hand on heart it is the same (after all today there was no sunshine, no glorious architecture and no good company), it is pretty good.