With all this talk of sweets for Purim, I didn’t want to forget that there’s a seuda that needs to be prepared, and that there is food that should be cooked to balance out the sugar intake that so defines this chag.
Here’s a recipe for a delicious tomato-based chicken that I have adapted from a recipe from Marlena Spieler’s “Complete Guide to Traditional Jewish Cooking”. This recipe is dubbed Varna-style chicken. Not being very familiar with Bulgarian Jewish cuisine, I have to take her word for it that these are the origins of this dish. For me, it’s a simple, tasty chicken dish that works well and offers lots of gravy to go with a side of rice.
2kg (4.5 lb) chicken pieces (I used thighs, legs and wings, or you can used a whole cut up chicken)
Vegetable oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Fresh thyme leaves or about 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 large onions chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic crushed
½ cup dry sherry
100 g (3 oz) tomato paste
A handful of fresh basil leaves chopped
2 tablespoons wine vinegar (white or red)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large can crushed tomatoes (800 g/28 oz)
About 250 g (8 oz) fresh sliced mushrooms
How to do it
1. Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and thyme. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or skillet and brown the chicken pieces and place in a large baking pan.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
3. When you have done browning the chicken pieces, do not discard the oil. Keep the oil hot and dry the onion until translucent and then add the garlic and fry for another minute. Add the sherry, tomato paste, salt, pepper, basil, vinegar, sugar, mustard and crushed tomatoes. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir them in. Add more sugar or vinegar to taste.
4. Pour the sauce over the chicken and cover the pan with foil. Cook covered for about 1-1¼ hours, or until cooked through (for me, this is when the flesh starts falling off the legs).
Serve with rice.