When I was a kid I didn’t like tomatoes very much. I liked them well enough raw, in a salad or a sandwich, but that was it. Anything with tomato cooked into it was blech to my palate. So I would aristocratically dip my hot chips in mayonnaise and snobbily eat my Four’n Twenty meat pies au naturel. When Mum made spaghetti bolognaise she would serve the pasta and the sauce separately and I’d happily reject the bolognaise, grating a little bit of goat’s cheese on my plain spaghetti instead. And when Mum made stuffed tomatoes, I would gouge out the yummy rice filling and wastefully leave behind a whole plateful of tomato cups. Which is why chicken with red sauce was never one of my faves growing up. Too tomatoey. Oh, but what a fool!!! Over the years I have come to appreciate tomato in all it’s forms and guises, including cooked!
Since Mum only ever cooked our favourite meals when David and I visited her in Melbourne, she never thought to make this one for us and as a result it’s been years and years since I’ve had it. Which is why I was so delighted when Pieta recently found a bunch of old handwritten recipes, including this one for chicken with red sauce. Yay!!! It was so wonderful to be able to cook this meal with my sisters and to actually enjoy, and appreciate, it with them. Especially since they both used to love it when they were kids. It was truly delicious and I’m grateful that each of us was able to bring a recipe of Mum’s to this series. I still have a few of Mum’s recipes written down, but because Mari, Pieta and I won’t be able to cook together for a while, this post will be the last of “My Mother’s Recipes”. I’m sure I’ll be whipping up some of Mum’s other delicious recipes with David in Dubai, but it just won’t be the same.
Speaking of Dubai, we’ve been back here for just under four weeks and I already miss being in Melbourne. I miss the cool weather. The trees. The fresh air. Nature. My friends. I miss good food and good coffee. I miss hanging out in the neighbourhood I grew up in (and which I’ll probably never hang out in again). Shopping at the local supermarket, late in the afternoon and walking home with the groceries in the dappled light. I miss listening to the kookaburras laughing at dusk, and the magpies warbling at dawn. I miss my Mum’s beautiful garden. I miss my Mum.
And I miss my sisters. So fucking much. I miss spending every day with them. I miss the three of us all staying in the home we grew up in – the first time we’ve lived together in over 25 years. I miss the military precision required for the morning shower rush. I miss watching TV with them, going for drives together, running errands, talking, crying, laughing. I miss eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with them, and getting plastered with them. I miss their smiles and their quirks. I miss cooking with them. And I particularly miss the three of us cooking our Mum’s recipes together. It was so fucking special to have the opportunity to do that. We’ve never done it before, and who knows if we’ll ever do it again (though I really hope we do).
Recreating Mum’s food together was nostalgic, fun, delicious, cathartic and yes, a little bit sad. But most of all, it was something that bonded the three of us together in a way that we have never connected before. Food can be amazing like that. It thrilled me that the three of us could sit down to eat the food that we made – the exact same food that our Mum nourished us with, the food that she used to put her heart and soul into cooking for us. It was a beautiful thing. And I’m so happy that I can share it with you. It truly gives me joy that some of you have actually made these recipes for yourselves. That’s what this is all about. Food is love, or at least it is in my family.
CHICKEN IN RED SAUCE
olive oil for frying
1 kg chicken wings and drumettes (free range and organic if you can afford it)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste (more to taste)
1 teaspoon flour
a pinch of dried oregano
cooked rice to serve
Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown in batches. Set aside.
Add more oil if necessary and saute onion until soft. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add tomato paste and stir to combine well. Add flour and cook for a minute, stirring.
Add chicken pieces back to saucepan and stir, ensuring the chicken pieces are all coated in sauce.
Add a little bit of water and stir through to dissolve any floury lumps (see, I told you we’d take care of it). Add more water, enough to just cover the chicken, and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to simmer until the sauce thickens.
Serve over a bowl of rice and make sure you get lots of sauce in there. YUM!