Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Eva's broken hearted chicken.

As I cooked, I realized with a pang that I was making something very similar to one of my grandmother's signature dishes. She would send me to the garden to pick the parsley and to pull a bunch of shallots. And I would watch...

You skin the chicken pieces and chop some of the fatty bits finely, along with a couple of rashers of bacon, also finely chopped. Fry in a skillet until nicely browned - the fat rendered. Remove with a slotted spoon. Dredge the chicken pieces in seasoned flour, brown in the same skillet. Return the bacon and skins, shallots, some slivers of garlic, plenty of chopped parsley, a cup of chicken stock and half a cup of dry sherry. Bake at 180C/350F for about forty minutes, basting a couple of times.

 My grandmother never served this dish hot - as it cools, the gravy turns into a delicious jelly, wonderful with a few slices of chicken, on a fresh bread roll.
We ate it warm, with basmati and a salad of chopped heritage tomatoes, charred red pepper and parsley. I made a dressing of balsamic - the one thickened with figs, Mission olive oil from the Karoo and Turkish chili flakes. The vinegar settled into a fat question mark and I could almost feel her there next to me.

I learnt so much in my grandmother's kitchen. I wish I could cook her a meal. I wish I could take her shopping and introduce her to this new wealth of ingredients. She is the one who came to our "Grease" party dressed as a Greek peasant. The one whose ring I now own. A sweet-smelling rose called Aurora. Crumbs for the birds on the lawn. Freshly baked brown bread and apricot jam.

If I had to condense my grandmother into one word, it would be kindness.

Happy Birthday Ouma.