I think someone (hello, former students of mine) should do a sociological study of Australian food culture as expressed through the recipes section of Good Weekend magazine. (If you would like someone to help you prepare and taste test recipes, I am your go-to girl). Charting the social, economic, ethical and aesthetic dimensions of food consumption in Australia would be fasciminating indeed, as my friend Mimi Goss would say.
If a student of mine were to undertake this course of study, I would strongly hope that they would come out swinging against the current celebrity chef responsible for the food pages. I won’t name names, but he is, I find, singularly irritating, to the point where I’ve begun to skip his columns as, firstly, I, and no one I know, could afford the first five items on the ingredients list for an ‘everyday meal’, and, secondly, no one I know would want to spend the five hours in the kitchen sharpening our Furli knives to slither kingfish sashimi between coming home from work, running out to the gym, or just, you know, having a life.
Except, every now and then, I look at a recipe and go…hmmm, with a bit of tweaking and a simplification/economisation, there is potential for a halfway decent recipe. Sometimes even a good one.
Such is the case with my Celebrity Cher Redux Chicken, Sweet Potato and Almond Stew. The initial recipe provided by He Who Shall Not Be Named featured lamb backstrap, but I modified it to use rump steak, and then, as in the following recipe, chicken thighs. I liked the beef stew, but something about chicken, cinnamon and sweet potato is too terrifically right for me to not give you the white meat version.
If you’re worried about the whole stew-in-summer thing, don’t be. This actually tastes fresh (I think it’s the lime and mint) and, if you serve it cooled down a little from piping hot, it’s rather pleasant on a balmy evening, particularly if you wash it down with chilled sarsaparilla as Clementine Kemp and I did this past Friday.
Celebrity Cher Redux Chicken, Sweet Potato and Almond Stew
600g chicken thigh fillets, cut into inch-ish chunks
2 onions, chopped
Heat a little oil in large casserole dish (I use my le cruset). Fry onions and chicken over medium heat with a pinch of salt until chicken begins to turn white. Throw in the following…
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 bruised cardomon pods
And cook until fragrant. Now add in…
1 teaspoon chicken stock powder
1 teaspoon vegetable stock powder
Enough water to ONLY JUST COVER the chicken
(or, instead of the above, a carton of liquid chicken stock)
Bring this briefly to the boil and turn to the lowest simmer possible. It’s now time, while you wait for the pot to boil, to add…
About half to three quarters of a cup of chopped pitted dates
A really generous splash of lime juice (we’re probably in the vicinity of a quarter cup)
A teaspoon of palm sugar (or brown sugar, or just some extra dates)
Put the lid on your casserole dish and leave on a very low heat, while you peel and chop into inch-ish chunks...
Two medium large sweet potatoes
Which you then place on a baking tray, toss with some olive oil and salt, and roast at 200 degrees or until tender. By this time, your chicken should have been in the pot for just over an hour, and well on the way to being tender and delicious. If you chicken is not quite slow-cooked enough, leave the potatoes in your (turned off) oven. Once the chicken has cooked until it’s tender and lovely, add in the roasted sweet potatoes and allow to sit off the heat for ten minutes to infuse. Meanwhile, chop a large handful of fresh mint and a large handful of almonds, and garnish your stew.
Serve with steamed rice and some quickly pan tossed greens. As one of Farmer Wants a Wife’s more…special…farmers would say, winner winner chicken dinner.