One of the things I love about the winter is that the backdrop of cold and dark days is the perfect excuse to indulge in one-pot comforts reminiscent of home. So much so that when my girlfriend Affi sent me the link to this potato dish on TipHero, I immediately drew parallels with some of the one-pot recipes I grew up on back home.
More often than not, the carb of choice in these recipes would be Yam, but in replicating this dish, I have chosen to use potatoes given its wider availability in Europe. The other adaptation I have made is to cook this as a casserole, which is quite a popular method of cooking across Africa.
I remember my grandmum would have a pot cooking on the firewood-powered stove for hours on end – and as a child, I always wondered why cooking took so long! She obviously knew something I didn’t – and now I get it..
Back then in rural Nigeria, every respectable family reared some chicken, and goats, and these animals provided valuable meat, eggs and sometimes milk. The chickens were allowed to roam freely within the boundaries of their coop (which was the whole back garden), so in effect, they were raised organic. This however meant the meat was usually tougher than commercially-reared chicken. Grandma was also no butcher, so most of the meat was served on-the-bone – and that, my dear readers, is the first secret to this dish. With that, I will let you into my pandora’s box of secrets of how to turn an ordinary casserole into a “designer” casserole:
- Choose a tough cut of meat: These have lots of connective tissue which becomes tender when cooked slowly. You don’t want to end up with meat that has completely fallen apart after the long process of cooking is done. Chicken is a great choice of meat for casseroles. For best results, choose chicken on the bone.
- Meat on-the-bone? even better! Cut the meat on the bone, revealing part of that bone. Not only will the flavours from the cooking penetrate the bone, giving you even more flavoursome meat, but the bone also will allow the meat to cook slower resulting in very tender piece of meat.
- Brown the meat or chicken first. You want to coax out the flavours from the meat, and there is no better way to do this than browning the meat in butter and oil. Do this in small batches so the meat fries in the oil and you will be rewarded. Too much meat packed into the pan will cause the meat to boil in its juices! NOT GOOD!!
- Cut all your ingredients to a similar size so that everything cooks evenly. If you are adding any ingredients that cook quickly to the dish, add these towards the end of the cooking. I added basil leaves to my dish which were introduced towards the end.
- Use a casserole dish with a tight-lid so you don’t lose too much moisture during the cooking.
This dish is delightfully easy to make. Just toss all the prepared ingredients into a casserole dish, cover it, set the timer on the oven and that is pretty much it folks. For this dish, I am cooking the chicken and potato using a tomato sauce as a base. To add more flavour, I grilled the tomatoes, onions and garlic first before pureeing and adding to the dish.
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