PICKIN’ A CHICKEN

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - FOOD, DRINK and OTHER MAT­TERS with Pa­trick Skin­ner

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.

Tomato Sauce:

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

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