Running Chicken Casserole Anybody?
“If it Must Die for You… First Let it live Free Range”
Here’s a fantastic chicken casserole, simple honest food, tasty and nourishing. Because there are only a few ingredients, make sure they are top quality, fresh and locally grown. The translation of ‘umleqwa’, (running chicken or chicken slaughtered at home), suggests that the bird is free-range and organic. To eat it, you first have to catch it.
Traditionally, the chicken will have spent its life scratching around the edges of the *kraal; eating succulent insects, the tastiest greens, tender grass shoots and any grain provided.
The star of this show shouldn’t be a six-week old, cage-reared, antibiotic stuffed, genetically modified, flabby mutant. For taste, this casserole needs a happy chicken with flavorful meat and plenty of it, and not excessively fatty.
(Chicken Casserole) (not for a fainthearted vegetarian)
- 1 whole chicken – ‘umleqwa’
- 4 T or 60 ml cooking oil
- 4 whole onions, chopped
- 2 large or 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cut chicken into eight pieces and fry in oil until brown. Add the onions and fry (with the chicken bits) for five minutes. Add tomatoes (and any juice) and seasoning and braise slowly for an hour or two until the chicken is cooked.
I often leave the dish cooking for up to three hours, until the chicken is falling away from the bones. It’s become my standard practice to do this – the flavor is just so superior.
Remove chicken and keep warm while you thicken the juices using flour mixed with a bit of cold water. Cook over medium heat ‘til the flour is cooked and the gravy smooth. Adjust the seasoning…
This is really ‘lekker’ (super tasty) served with stywe pap, baked potatoes, rice or even just fresh, farm-style bread to sop up the scrumptious gravy.
But I have a real problem – I can’t just make a dish – everything has to be tweaked! So, in the spirit of full disclosure, ground coriander (to taste) and a touch of garlic take a really good dish and make it superb! Well there’s another little indulgence I reach for and that’s nutmeg grated (with a micro-plane grater) on top after serving. I’m sorry there’s no photo of this tasty chicken casserole; the last time I made it, we were in the midst of a camera crisis!
A Tough Point to Remember
Oh…just remember, roosters are really, really tough and are not a recommended candidate for this recipe. An older hen would work well but will need longer cooking. If so, check the liquid level in the chicken casserole from time to time to prevent burning, adding a bit of water when necessary. But only a bit – too much will dilute the flavor.
*Kraal is an Afrikaans word (also in South African English) meaning a pen for livestock, an enclosure made especially for defensive purposes, or a homestead.
“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”