“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”
~ Laurie Colwin
This is a simple meal to throw together, and a regular in our household. The flavours are wonderful and the chicken remains moist and fall-off-the-bone tender. I love to make this when friends come over for a casual dinner, or on a lazy Sunday afternoon for just the two of us so that we have plenty of leftovers to enjoy in the week ahead. (Keep in fridge for five days or up to three months in the freezer.)
My grandmother, Marga, taught me to make this dish when I was still at school. I can’t fail to make it now without thinking of her. It’s a very versatile recipe, and can be served with all kinds of sides.
I’ve served this chicken with crusty bread and a glass of wine. I’ve chucked a tin of white beans and a couple of cups of sliced mushrooms into the pot an hour before the cooking was finished and made it into a one-pot meal. I’ve served it with a big fresh salad and cobs of corn. I’ve served it on a bed of rice, and also on a bed of pasta. I’ve served it with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables, or a big pan of all manner of roasted vegetables. Work with what’s seasonal and fresh in your area right now, and what you and your family love. That way you can’t go wrong.
Do try and make this with chicken pieces that have bones. The flavour will be more robust and the longer cooking and the acid from the tomatoes will help leach all the fat-soluble minerals from the bones, as well as amino acids and the collagen and other nutrients from the meat, cartilage and tendons.
The recipe can also be easily halved, if you prefer.
Here’s last night’s leftovers, all set to go into the fridge. The photo below reminds me of so much of Marga, a fabulous cook who was always putting leftovers into re-purposed ice-cream or butter containers, ready to begin the makings of another meal.
I’ll pull all the meat off the bones tomorrow, and put it back into the sauce. Then it can be used as a ragu over pasta or vegetables, or even served warm for breakfast with a runny poached egg and a handful of fresh herbs on top.
2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of chicken drumsticks or chicken pieces with the bones in, 1 small head of fresh garlic (about 12 cloves), 1 large brown onion, 1 cup of your favourite olives, 2 tins of diced tomatoes, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 4 tablespoons of concentrated tomato paste, olive oil, two teaspoons of grated fresh lemon rind, salt and pepper
Separate the garlic cloves, crush lightly with the flat of a knife and remove the skins. Cut into halves or thirds. Chop the onion into a rough dice.
Heat a slug of oil in the bottom of a very large skillet or high-sided frying pan on medium to high heat. Brown the chicken in batches. The chicken doesn’t need to be cooked through. You simply need to brown the skin and outer flesh. Place chicken to one side.
Pop the garlic and onion into the pan and reduce heat. Stir until soft and fragrant and then add in the olives and the oregano. Stir some more.
Now dump in one teaspoon of the grated lemon zest, the tomatoes and the tomato paste. Give a good grind of pepper and a sprinkle of salt and stir well.
Add the chicken pieces back in, making sure that they are well covered with sauce. Add a lid and cook over low slow heat for four hours, turning occasionally.
This can also be cooked successfully in a slow cooker for the same length of time.
Just before serving taste the sauce. Add in the extra teaspoon of lemon zest to freshen up the flavour and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
Serve and enjoy!