Monday, June 1, 2009

Chicken Stew

This month, the Book Club read Joanne Harris' Five Quarters of the Orange.

First, the title: Five Quarters of an Orange. Five? Quarters?? Doesn't make any mathematical sense, does it? But it all makes sense when you read the book. No, no, no - I won't spoil it for you by writing all about it here, if it intrigues you, go ahead and pick up the book. It is an awesome read.

So what is this book all about?

It is a story that runs between present day France and an occupied France during WWII. It also a story of how seemingly innocent childhood obsessions, infatuations and selfishness could snowball into unexpected horrors.

At its heart is its main protagonist, a 65 year old widow Francoise Simon who moves to Les Laveuses, a small village on the banks of the Loire. There, she runs a creperie, dishing out food largely based on the recipes that she inherited from her mother.

But, she hides a dark secret - she is actually Framboise Dartigen who lived on the same farm many years ago with her widowed mother, Mirabelle and a brother Cassis and sister Reinette - and she does not wish the villagers to know her true identity. For, their family is much abhorred in the village.

But her veil of disguise is a thin one that threatens to unravel with the growing popularity of her creperie.

As she deciphers the cryptic notes scribbled alongside recipes in her mother's recipe book, Framboise finally gets the full picture of what really happened on the farm when she was 9 and more importantly, her role in triggering the chain of events that led to the family being so maligned.




In terms of food, I was spoilt for choice...there is just so much food here, with brief recipes thrown in as well! In the end, I decided to make what Mirabelle Dartigen put on the table the day that the ball started rolling.

"She was making fish stew with the scraps from the market, and I could smell the rich aroma of rosemary and garlic and tomatoes and frying oil coming from the kitchen".

"The stew was good; red onions and tomatoes cooked in garlic and herbs and a cupful of white wine, the fish scraps simmering tenderly amongst fried potatoes and whole shallots".

Terradaze is allergic to fish and so I made chicken stew instead, but this stew is something that you can make with chicken or fish or meat....or even only with lots of veggies. It is a very healthy and flavourful stew, you'll love it!


Chicken Stew

Ingredients:

Chicken - 250 gms, with the bone
Garlic - 3 cloves, sliced
Tomato - 1 large
Onion - 1, cut into cubes, layers separated
Mixed vegetables (I used 2 carrots, 2 sweet potatoes, 1 cup cauliflower, 1/2 cup celery)
White wine - 1/2 cup
Apple cider vinegar - 2 tbsps
Rosemary (fresh or dried) - 2 tbsps (or more if you want)
Mixed Italian seasoning - 1 1/2 tbsp (more or less according to your taste)
Peppercorn
Salt
Olive oil

Method:

Make the base stock - Heat oil and fry the garlic till it turns brown. Add the chicken and stir for about 5 mins. Add water, finely chopped tomato, herbs, peppercorn and salt and boil till the chicken cooks. Mash the tomato with the back of a spoon intermittently. Simmer for about 15 mins.

Strain the stock and de- bone the chicken.

Add the vegetables (except the celery) and onion to the stock, toss in some herbs and peppercorn and cook till the vegetables are just cooked. Now add the shredded chicken, celery, the white wine and the vinegar and simmer for another 5 minutes. Adjust the salt and the pepper to your taste.

For those of you who are vegetarians, just skip the chicken in the base stock and add some mushrooms instead. Teetotalers, substitute white wine with 2 tbsps of grape vinegar.

Serve hot with some warm dinner rolls.

In June, we are reading one of my all time favourite books, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I risk doing the entire review right here and now, but I will just stop at saying this - even if you are not a member of the book club, this is one book that is a MUST READ for any book lover. And if you want to read this book and cook with it as part of the book club, write in to Simran.


11 comments:

  1. Thats looking so lovely and healthy.. colorful.

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  2. hi AD,
    U have all the traits of a story teller/weaver/writer :)
    coming to the recipe...this one looks colourful and creamy!comfort food for sure.
    Enjoy!
    TC

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  3. Delicious, healthy and lovely chicken stew AQua!!!! tempting one!

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  4. temptinme to try this one,..:-0

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  5. Oh the title impresses me I am gonna pick that book sooner or later!!! any subject relating to WW II/I or wars attractes my attention!!! about the stew mmm its so delightful and enchanting!!!

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  6. am all ready to go for this stew...looks so tempting and delicious..

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  7. Thanks A, loved the India trip. Now exhausted and tired! :D

    Enjoy blogging, see you in Fall.

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  8. Love the post Aquadaze.The stew can obviously made vegan/vegetarian.Thanks for the mushroom tip.I too remember the sentence from the book.Looking for ward for the next month,thgh I have not yet seen the book here.

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  9. Nice stew and healthy as said :)

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  10. Very colourful recipe..Yummy too..Will surely try this out..

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It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!

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