There is something, for me, sentimental about having a pot of food slowly bubbling away on the stove top in the kitchen. I guess it is the feeling of comfort, the assurance of having food ready and steady for the evening.
I believe this state of mind is strongly connected to the way I grew up: my mother spent most of her day cooking in the kitchen, after making lunch for us (my sisters and I ate lunch at home during school lunch break, as we lived only 5 minutes walk from our school), she would clean up and start to prepare dinner again (something that I didn’t quite get my head around until I became a mother myself!). There was always something cooking on the stove: slow cooked soup, braised meat etc which require intense preparation and hours of cooking time. Our home would be filled with all kind of ambrosial aroma while mother siting at our dinning table, reading newspaper with her glasses which made her eyes look enormous. These pictures of mother and her kitchen, the food that she used to cook for us, the memories of us spending times together are vivid and comforting. Perhaps that is the reason why I love cooking so much, the chance for me to retrieve these fond memories of my easeful childhood.
Although the recipe I present to you here is neither my childhood favorite (but it is definitely one of mine now), nor my mother’s signature dish. In fact, I only heard of or cooked a similar dish about a year ago when I tried out a Chicken Puttanesca recipe in a dieting cookbook. To my surprise, it was very easy to cook and was really delicious! So since then, diet or not, this dish appears regularly on our dinning table!
This recipe here is a slight adaptation of the recipe I found, since I have cooked this dish many times, finally I have found our favorite version. Red onion is a welcome addition as it gives some caramel flavor to the whole dish (white or yellow onion work well too). I add red bell pepper and its sweetness smoothes out the sharp tomatoey taste. I use a pasta based sauce in a jar inadvertently when I was cooking for this blog post, as I thought I had canned tomato in my cupboard, but it contributes unexpectedly a more complex flavor than fresh tomatoes or even canned tomatoes does (but by all mean, use canned tomatoes if you prefer, it will work and still be delicious). All I can say now is try this recipe out, it takes 15 minutes to prepare and about 30 minutes on the stove, it looks appetizing, it is bald in flavor, it has wonderful texture, delicious to served with rice or pasta or even just with steamed vegetables or boiled potato.
Note: I bought a whole chicken and used the legs and wings for this dish, I found the meat is more flavorsome and it is also more economical since I can cook the breasts in a separate meal and use the carcass to make broth. But it is entirely your decision, and the recipe below makes enough for 4 people.
- 4-6 organic chicken leg, cut into drumsticks and thighs, leave the skins on
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat of a knife
- 1 red onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, halved, deseeded and cut into strips
- 4 anchovy filets
- 1 tablespoon caper, rinsed and drained
- 3 tablespoons black olive, stones (you can use green or Kalamata)
- 1 jar (400g) Tomato based pasta sauce (or canned tomato, please add a small pinch of sugar)
- 1 sprig Rosemary
- 2 sprigs of Thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste (salt is optional, you probably don’t need it at all)
- Olive oil
- Water (for deglazing)
Prepare the chicken pieces by seasoning with freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.
In a deep (cast iron) casserole, heat a glug of olive oil and then add garlic and chopped red onion, sautéed in medium high heat for about 4-5 minutes, or until the onion starts to take on a brown colour.
Add chicken pieces and brown all sides. Carefully add a splash of water to the casserole to deglaze, pour in the tomato sauce (or canned tomatoes with a small pinch of sugar) and once boiled, turn the heat down to medium. (add a splash of water if the sauce is getting too thick)
Add all the other ingredients in the casserole, covered and let it simmer on low heat about 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir once or twice during cooking.
Once cooked, removed from heat and let it sit, covered for another 10 minutes before serving. Ideally, served with basmati or brown rice.
You can even make it ahead of time, left over tastes even better on the next day!