PICKIN’ A CHICKEN
In the 1990s, from Monday to Saturday, I used to walk a couple of hundred metres down the steep village streets to the local Co-op to get my letters and buy a few bits and pieces. One day, when I arrived there were about six village worthies present, curious to see what “the English” wanted.
“No letters”, the shop-keeper Michalis shouted at me in Greek. “Ena kotopoulo, parakalo (“A chicken, please”), I answered. “NO LETTERS!” he bellowed back, whereupon the six villagers chorused: “ENA KOTOPOULO!” Michalis said something to the effect of: “You don’t have to shout, I’m not deaf”.
Later, Michalis was elected the village Mukhtar. He and his fog-horn voiced wife Athena lived next to us. He used to potter off on various business matters to Limassol a couple of days a week. One Friday I saw him coming home from town – as usual he’d taken the lovely old village bus – carrying a live chicken by the legs (at Christmas time it was a turkey). He’d put the bird into a cage and fed it barley and it clucked away happily, unaware of impending doom. Saturday or Sunday morning, the clucking was replaced by a loud squawk and then silence. Mrs. Mukhtar then set about removing feathers and interior oddments before consigning it to the pot. Back then, chickens ran about in yards and open spaces and had flavour to them. With today’s factory-produced specimens one has to pep them up a bit, with herbs, spices, a bit of bacon or ham and perhaps some chicken stock made from cube or powder. And you’re lucky if you can find one from which the liver, kidneys and other bits haven’t been spirited away!
As my picture, from a delightful tiny cook book called “
shows, chicken has always been part of the recuperation process for the invalid. Chicken soup is a great restorative, especially beloved of Jewish mothers, and my first recipe this week adapts one such. 1. Clean chicken pieces and put into a deep heavy saucepan. 2. Add water and all the other ingredients, except the sugar. 3. Bring to boil, then simmer covered until chicken is tender, about 1-2 hours according to age of the fowl. Add more water if necessary.
4. Take out chicken, and set aside. Use this in a risotto or pasta dish. Or mixed in with a Caesar salad. 5. Keep the cooked vegetables (see 9 – 10 below). 6. Strain soup, and chill. 7. Skim off fat which has risen to the top of chilled soup. 8. To finalise, re-heat soup, adjusting seasoning if desired and add sugar. 9. For a chunkier soup, cut pieces of the cooked carrot, celery, etc., you have kept and sprinkle into each bowl.
10. Alternatively, for a good substantial smooth blended soup, put everything in your food processor and whizz to your preferred consistency. Half cup milk 1 egg Chopped parsley salt and pepper Stock, made from: 3 leeks, 3 carrots, 1 turnip, 1 onion studded with 2 whole cloves, 1 celery stalk, 2 cloves garlic, a herb bouquet, salt and pepper
1. To make stuffing, grind chicken liver and gizzard (cleaned) with pork and ham. If the gizzard hasn’t come with your bird, proceed without it! 2. Sauté the meats in butter with shallots. 3. Soak bread in milk and squeeze dry. 4. Add to meat with beaten egg, parsley, salt and pepper. 5. Stuff the hen with this forcemeat and tie-up all openings. 6. Set the hen in a big, heavy pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil, add the vegetables, herbs and seasonings. Cover tightly, simmer 2 hours or more until tender. 7. Remove chicken to warm platter. 8. Strain stock and serve as first course. 9. Serve chicken with rice and Sauce Poulette. 1. Lightly toast or bake one Pitta bread. 2. In your food processor put broken pieces of the Pitta and make breadcrumbs. 3. In a shallow dish put the breadcrumbs and mix them with salt, pepper and a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese. Mix well.
4. Beat four chicken escalopes flat and dip them in flour.
5. Dip the floured escalopes into well beaten egg and make sure they are covered all over.
6. Take the egged escalopes and roll them in the seasoned breadcrumbs, making sure they are covered all over.
7. Gently fry until golden and cooked through. Serve.
This basic tomato sauce can be used for all kinds of dishes. It freezes well. It can be made in any quantity in the proportion of 1 onion to 4tomatoes. These quantities will make enough to be going on with... 2-3 medium-large onions, peeled and finely chopped 6-8 large tomatoes, out 100 grams each, coarsely chopped (or two 400 gram cans) 3-4 good cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped Sprig of thyme and several bay leaves Salt and pepper 1 tbsp dry sherry (or white wine for a gentler flavour) 4-5 tbsp olive oil