My Igbo friends love taking the piss out of Yoruba cooking, in jest. I laughed and laughed when one of them said we just like everything red! The truth is we do love our tomato base cooking! And my gosh it doesn’t get redder than stew; chicken stew is red, goat stew is red, beef stew is red, fish stew is red, you get the drift! And you know what? it’s a little redder when you use palm oil. So this weekend it’s all about chicken stew in my house. My hubby is addicted to rice! He says he is not, but he is! He can happily eat rice and stew for the next 3 days, minus tomorrow, because you know it’s Sunday and Sunday is Roast day! If there is cooked food for the next 3 days it simply means peace for me, I tell you, as long as there is food I think I can wander off for days and SB wouldn’t notice! But more importantly if I cook the stew now, I’ll avoid that oh so annoying question ‘Titi ki la ma je lale yi” yes I hate the question because I feel like saying ‘dude, why don’t you think about what’s for dinner tonight! And the real question you are asking is ” Titi what are you making for dinner’! And, yes there is another and, there is no ‘we’ here cause weeeeeeeeee never eat the same thing mid-week”!!! he eats rice, and I eat salmon and asparagus! Apart from weekends when I kinda eat whatever!
So today I stretched to open the cupboard for the canned plum tomatoes which will make the base of my chicken stew and I think hang on a minute! I did say I’d stop using canned tomatoes and switch to fresh . But then the thought of actually using fresh tomatoes freaked me out!!! Firstly, I’ve not cooked stew with fresh tomatoes in years! What if it’s a disaster, watery, strange colour, I literary had to get a grip! Like seriously! What’s the worst that can happen ….
So instead of the canned tomatoes I blended a dozen tomatoes, four scotch bonnet and two onions! I heated my vegetable oil and when it was hot I poured in the mixture and started the cooking process. It looked cleaner, it looked fresher and when I’d fried it down to the point where I could see a bit of oil peeing through, I poured in the chicken stock that I had set aside, and it tasted divine!! I allowed the chicken stock to cook its way through my stew and the result was absolutely superb!
I have been frustrated with plum tomatoes for months, most brands are either too sweet so that your stew tastes sickly sweet, or too bland! Or too sharp – acidic! Using fresh tomatoes is simply a return to basic to the best. And based on taste alone i think I’ll find it difficult to use plum tomatoes again! Ever! so yes it may cost a little bit more! But you know what, I intend to start growing my own tomatoes ( well I can try, I hear it’s quite easy to grow). After moaning and moaning about plum tomatoes my friend suggested fresh and I’m thanking Funke for planting the seed and for returning me to basics!!
For the chicken: Boil your chicken with fresh ginger, garlic, onions and chicken knor with a splash of black pepper corn! blend all these ingredients with water and pour the paste on your chicken. Nix it in well and start boiling. Once the chicken is boiled, put it under the grill ( not oven), once brown add it to the stew at the last-minute and switch off the cooker immediately. Do not cook your chicken in the stew. I buy my chicken from Tesco. If you still eat Pluvera and like it carry on, but some people buy this chicken simply because it’s what they have known their parents use or for some odd misconception that other varieties don’t work in stew. I am more comfortable with chicken from the supermarket – taste and freshness wise, if you can go free range even better. But leaving the chicken thing aside, the moral is to try going back to fresh tomatoes for your stew – try it.
Eat with rice and grilled plantain!