Yay! Cooking again. I'm planning reheatable things, because of the constant business of evening rehearsals and events. Last week was a total no-show on the cooking, except for some roasting of tomatoes, another kilo of rhubarb from the garden, and a few old beetroots.
And they weren't even my beetroots - B1 gave them to me when she went off to Adelaide for a week. They did come in handy: sliced up and sprinkled with white balsamic, they made an excellent salad with some mixed leaves (mostly spinach), brown "kumatoes", and Dutch semi-hard goats cheese. Toss over an extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice dressing, serve with a bit of bread and butter and it's a good lunch. Is that cooking? Mmmm, I guess it wasn't a total non-event, then.
I was out to dinner last night, and the conversation turned to cooking skills, and the ability to look in a fridge and produce a meal from whatever's there. So this morning I felt obliged to live up to my words, and use some things up. Zucchini from the garden (and two from B1's, damn her), the roasted tomatoes, some olives, a cup or so of flat pink champagne, a few bits of salad... It sort of said "Italian" to me, and I started thinking chicken cacciatore.
With that in mind, I toddled off to market with B1, only to find that preparation for the show has shoved them off site and without electricity. No coffee! The horror! I grabbed a couple of necessities - new season apples, blackberries, tomatoes - and then headed for Belco. Beppe's coffee and berry pancakes restored my sanity, and I was able to buy all the things I thought I needed: mushrooms, fresh basil, and chicken. I had a bit of fun at the Market Gourmet chicken shop watching Dave helpfully joint a couple of chooks for me, in between training a new boy in important life lessons such as "Never get in the way of a man with a knife".
When I got home, I turned to the great Italian classic cookbook, Il Cucchiaio d'Argento, in a quest for authenticity. I was quite surprised to read the recipe. It was not what I thought it would be...
Recipe: Pollo Alla Cacciatora
1 chicken, jointed
3 tblsp olive oil
6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1 flat leaf parsely sprig, chopped
salt & pepper
Brown chicken and onion in the oil and butter, stirring frequently.
Add tomato, carrot, celery and water.
Simmer 45 minutes, or until chicken is tender.
Add parsley, salt and pepper to taste before serving.
Notes: Well, how simple is that? Note the complete absence of olives, mushrooms, capsicum, zucchini, stock, wine, basil, oregano, bayleaves and even garlic! The book does say that this is the simplest version, and in some regions white wine or stock may be used, or sliced mushrooms added. But 90% of the recipes you find on the web include a lot more ingredients and a lot more fuss.
My version so far this time is quite simple. I've used a lot less fat, and the legs and thighs of the two chickens. I also used the roast tomatoes (not seeded, I can never be bothered with that) and 200g sliced flat mushrooms. The flat champagne went in instead of water, and I've added a couple of bayleaves. I have not used carrot or celery. I don't like carrots in this, and the bloke avoids celery if it's not very well disguised. I may add some fresh basil at the end, just because I have it and it is delicious. Maybe some olives, too. Authenticity, schmauthenticity.
The rest of the chickens is being used separately. I've frozen the breasts for later use in stirfries or grills, and popped the frames in a stockpot with the rest of the champers, plus water, bayleaves, an onion and a carrot to make stock. Also on the stove is a recipe-less ratatouille: onion, zucchini, mushroom, eggplant, tomato, bayleaf. I intend to add fresh basil later. I've left out the usual garlic, because I suspect that some antibiotics are giving me a heightened allium sensitivity. Bugger.
I also have some wallaby rump defrosting, which I intend to curry extremely simply by using a Charmaine Solomon rendang paste that took my fancy in the Food Lovers shop. Three things simmering away at once, and another started, that feels better!