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Monday, May 24, 2010

Chicken Stew with Rice and Plantain

I decided to make my first dish, one that is popular with many people in Ghana, Chicken stew with rice and fried plantain.

Measurements and quantities when it comes to cooking and recipes, tend to be a big problem for Ghanaians and I'm sorry to say I am no different. I will however try approximate with regards to whatever it is I'm writing about.

For this meal, which I think could serve 4 or 5 people, I used

2 pounds of Chicken (broiler or 'soft', as we say in the market)
2 medium size Onions
10 medium size Tomatoes
10 - 12 peppers (use as much or as little as works for you)
3 cups rice (standard measuring cup)
3 fingers of Plantain
2 cups Cooking oil
2 dessert spoon tomato puree/paste
2 maggie cubes
1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Rosemary
1 teaspoon Curry powder
2 cloves Garlic
Salt to taste

So, the first thing I did was remove the skin and as much of the fat as I could get off. I cut it into sizeable portions, which are of course entirely up to you. I then washed it thoroughly, since chicken tends to have a not-so-pleasant scent. You could rinse it in a little lemon water if it really bothers you.

Add the black pepper, crushed maggie cubes and salt. Be careful of how much salt you add since the cubes are salted. The garlic also goes in at this stage. You could either chop it finely, crush it with a garlic press or our local asanka, or even blend it, although I think its a waste to use a blender for 2 cloves. Although it makes sense when you are adding a few other things (for seasoning) that need blending like Ginger, onions, pepper etc.

Toss it to get all the spices around to all the pieces. Let it stand for 3 to 5 minutes then put it in a coverd pot and steam. No water is needed because the juices will run from the chicken.

Depending on what kind of chicken being used (layer is much leaner and therefore tougher), it may take between 7 to 10 minutes for broiler which will start to fall apart if overcooked and up to 30 minutes for layer. Do add water if you feel the need, especially with cooking layer. We don't want it to burn.

In the meantime, you could cut the onions. I like to sit the onion on it's end and slice down the middle. I then place the flat part of each half on the board and slice in the same dirrection as the natural lines. I have an aunt who likes to slice accross the lines. Whatever works for you is fine, just as long as the sizes are uniform, so they can cook at the sam pace. If you fancy some exta garlic, you could slice some up.

This is also a good time to blend the tomatoes and pepper. If you however, prefer more texture in your stew, you could just chop them up as you like.

When the chicken is cooked, drain off the stock (liquid goodness from the steaming) and put aside. Pour half the cooking oil into a frying pan and heat. Split a clove of garlic lengthwise and put it in the oil. Use this to judge the heat of the oil. W the garlic starts to brown and almost burn, the oil is hot enough. Carefully place the chicken in the hot oil. Use a fork, it makes it easier. Turn down the heat a little and fry the chicken in 2 batches if necessary.

Turn the pieces over to check if they are beginning to brown. If they are, flip them over to fry the other side. When they start to get golden, they are ready to be removed. Dont fry the chicken too dry or else it will become hard and stringy.

Using the same pot you steamed the chicken in, heat about half the oil left over fom frying the chicken. Add the slices onions stirring occassionally.

Fry the onions till they lose their colour and start to look transparent.

When they do, add the curry powder and continue to fry. Stir to prevent it sticking. The longer it fries, the more it sticks to the bottom.

Continue to fry the onions and curry until they begin to brown around the edges

Add the tomato puree stirring continuously for about 2 minutes.

By now, it should be almost sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Add the blended tomatoes and stir until it is evenly mixed. Cover and leave to simmer. This allows the tomatoes to cook as well as the onions to soften. Stir ocassionally making sure it is not sticking. As the sauce thickens, it will begin to fry again. ry it for a while until it is begining to stick to the bottom.

Add the chicken stock and stir.

At this point, add the fried chicken to the sauce. If it is too thick, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Turn down the heat, cover half way and leave it to simmer.

Wash and peel the plantain, then slice the plantain. This can be done in a number of ways. Straight accross to form circles. Down the middle then accross to form half circles (better on large plantains). Or down the middle of the half circles to form cubes.

I prefer to slice diagonally to form 1 inch thick ovals. Plantains are sweet so some people add nothing in the way of flavouring. I like to add a dash of salt, just to give it a bit of taste.

Heat the remaining cup of oil in a frying pan. when it is hot enough, carefully place the plantains in a prepare a colander to drain the plantains when they are done. Alternatively, you could place paper towels on a plate to soak up the excess oil. As the plantains start to brown around the edges, flip them over to fry the other side. Watch them carefully as this side will cook faster than the first. remove as soon as the second side is done. A serated spoon may be best for this, unless you can be very quick.

Wash the rice and place in a colander. Drain it for a few minutes then place in a pot. Cover with 5 cups of water. The general rule is 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. I learnt the hard way that, that isn't always the case (Different types of rice require different amounts of water). So I always start with 1 cup less and add the last cup in bits if needed. Add 2 teaspoons of oil to the water add salt to your taste, cover and bring to a boil.

As the rice swells and the water reduces, stir and cover with a polythene bag. I prefer to use the clear 'olonka' bag, but feel free to improvise. Turn the heat down to the lowest and leave it to cook slowly.

In about 15 to 20 minutes, you should have nice fluffy rice to go with your Chicken stew. If you want to add some vegetables, put them in a few minutes before the rice is cooked. That way they will steam a little but will not get soggy.
You could serve this with Avocado, coleslaw, etc. I would go for potato salad, but then again ... I want it with everything.
This is the simplest recipe I know for this meal, but there are many inventive ways of cooking chicken stew. Let me know how you prepare yours so I can try it.


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