We didn’t eat a lot of chicken growing up. My mother loved it, it was a favourite in her family in Mansuè (Veneto) but my father hated it (“blah-di gallina” he would mutter under his breath though mostly a lot louder than that). His first love was fish, his second love was beef, then vegetables and cake coming an equal third. My mother would write a shopping list on a Thursday night and my father would take it to work on a Friday. He took the afternoon off as flexitime to do the weekly shopping in Clayton near where he worked. He was sometimes quite selective with what he bought, in spite of mamma’s shopping list; the chicken was sometimes forgotten or replaced with fish or beef, except if he knew we were having guests and mamma was planning to make her boneless stuffed chicken, which he adored.
He relented in his later years and I remember a few chicken dishes that would be cooked for the grandchildren. There was a lemon chicken, stuffed boneless chicken thighs and occasionally chicken cacciatora. The latter originates from central Italy and literally means “hunter’s chicken”. The recipe was traditionally used as a method for cooking game that is usually hunted, such as rabbit and poultry. Red wine, herbs like rosemary and garlic are used in the sauce in which the meat is cooked. I do not know my mamma’s recipe for this (and she has forgotten as well) but I am sure it would have been similar to this one. I developed it a few months back for Mutti tomatoes and I wanted to share it with you on my blog because it proved to be so popular on social media. It is a simple but delicious family meal with a rich and complex taste that should please most children (especially the olive eating ones!). I love adding Mutti cherry tomatoes as well as passata to make the sauce rich and tomatoey. The sauce is delicious spooned on some potato mash, or mopped up with bread, but I like it best with creamy polenta (just like my mother would, though she would insist on white polenta rather than the yellow variety).
In other news:
- COOKING CLASSES in Melbourne – all classes for 2019 have now sold out. I have added a handful of classes in 2020. Please note that I take a break over summer and classes start again the last weekend of February. If you have a gift card that expires in 2019, please don’t worry, I can book you in to a class in 2020. Click HERE to see available classes
- SOUTHERN PUGLIA TOUR – tour dates 1 May – 7 May 2020 – I like to think of this tour as a Masseria tour as we get to see so many of them during our seven day tour. We spend three nights at Masseria Montelauro (in Ostuni, right at the tip of the heel of Italy) and three nights at the eclectic and beautiful Masseria Montenapoleone. During the tour we visit a number of other masserie, exploring the culture of olive oil and wine that is the Salento. This is a foodie tour rather than a cooking workshop tour so there will be lots of eating and exploring the traditional of this beautiful part of Italy. We will be visiting towns that are off the beaten track (which I will not reveal now but you can trust our local guide Giuseppe to pick some beauties) as well as spending time in Lecce, Ostuni and Polignano a Mare. Click HERE for more information
Serves 4 generously
4 chicken Marylands, halved
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion
1 small carrot
half a stalk of celery
1 clove garlic
1-2 stalks fresh rosemary
100 ml red wine
1 tin Mutti cherry tomatoes
300ml Mutti Passata
16-20 kalamata olives, pitted
Remove the chicken pieces from the fridge, place in a large bowl and sprinkle 2 teaspoons of sea salt and rub it in to the chicken. Cover and set aside to come to room temperature.
In the meantime, peel and finely dice the garlic, onion and carrot and dice the celery. Set aside.
Place the oil in a lidded pan that is sufficiently large to comfortably fit all the chicken pieces and set the heat to medium high. Place the chicken pieces in the pan (in batches if the fit in the pan is a bit snug – it will shrink a bit as it cooks) and brown them on all sides, about 6-8 minutes in total. Remove carefully with tongs and place in a covered bowl. Set aside.
Scrape off any pieces of chicken or skin that may have stuck to the base of the pan. Add the diced garlic, onion, carrot, celery and rosemary to the pan and set the pan to medium-low. Cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables soften. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, turn up the heat to high and add the wine. Cook for a few minutes until the wine has mostly evaporated, taking care that the chicken does not stick to the base. Add the tin of Mutti cherry tomatoes, adding a bit of water to the tin to ensure you remove all the contents, and then the Mutti Passata. Once the sauce comes to the boil, cover and reduce the heat so that it is simmering.
Cover and cook for about 40 minutes in total or until the chicken is cooked through, checking occasionally and stirring. Add the kalamata olives and salt and pepper to taste, and remove the lid of the pan for the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Serve the chicken with plenty of crusty bread, mashed potatoes or polenta to soak up the sauce.