Noel’s cinnamon lemon chicken with rice

Noel has been my best friend for 25 years. We met in the mid-1990s when we were both barmen working in the upstairs bar at 79CXR, the first central London bar to have a late night license while we had a late night attitude.

At its best, our part of the bar was five-deep with customers each being served with sass and, if needed, sarcasm. The bar is long gone but our friendship remains. Noel is a talented portrait artist, an opera aficionado and a terrific cook.

Our bromance has been peppered with the tastiest meals made on the smallest budgets, each inspired by one of Noel’s trips abroad.

Noel Bensted Self Portrait

One of my fondest memories of Noel centres around a dinner, but the focus this time wasn’t on the food, it was on the dominatrix who brought her ‘dog’ to dinner. I’ve related this story on h2g2, you need to read it to believe it.

Dominatrix by Noel Bensted (That's me in the background)

Noel falls in love with countries, and this recipe for two is inspired by the trip we took to Marrakech and ate a dozen courses in the Jamaa el-Fna for less than a tenner each.

Music to prepare this dish to: ‘Kiss from a rose’ by Seal


For the chicken

  • 6 skinless chicken thigh fillets (don’t use chicken breast, you need meat with flavour)
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoon mixed herbs
  • Juice and flesh of two lemons
  • Salt & pepper

For the rice

  • 250g cooked rice (basmati, long grain, pre-cooked the choice is yours)
  • 2 large onions sliced
  • Salt & pepper


  1. Start by preparing the onions for the rice by sweating them down over a medium heat with some salt and pepper. This will take around 25 mins, you want them to be dark and unctuous. Once done, turn the heat off and put the pan to one side.
  2. Fry chicken with salt and pepper in oil until browned. You really do have to make sure the chicken is well browned as this will give the dish a deep, earthy flavour.
  3. Add the cinnamon and herbs and stir.
  4. Add the lemon juice and flesh, cover and simmer on a medium heat for half an hour or 40 mins until the chicken is tender.
  5. Turn over chicken pieces a few times. If the pan is a little dry, add some water to loosen the sauce. Chicken thighs can produce a lot of oil, if this is the case, skim this off with a flat spoon.
  6. Five minutes before the chicken is ready, warm the pan with the onions and stir in the rice until both are heated through.

Serve with a very cold, medium white wine… and some pride.

How it looks and sounds

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