I’m an avid traveller. It must be from having nomads as parents. Not that they had a choice really, though my dad is such an ardent fan of Johannesburg, the one city where he actually put a stake in the ground, the city should hire him for its PR drive.
I do love to be on the move. Ever since I was little, I was always ready to grab my jacket and be on my way. It earned me the nickname uZuliswa from my older sister (uku-zula is to wander around or gallivant in isiXhosa). Hence my moniker. Though as much as I wander, I do love to return home.
We had this interesting tradition when we come home from trips as a family, especially ones outside SA borders. We would congregate in the kitchen, warm milk and have a bowl of cornflakes or “post toasties” as we grew up calling them. All this while my mother started cooking pap to make sure it was ready for my dad to have for lunch. There is something about this ritual of return which I love to carry out even as I live on my own now and travel without my first crew.
I love to cook when I come home. To be reunited with my kitchen is one of my favourite things. If you’ve eaten in the best restaurants, including ones with a Michelin acknowledgment as I did recently, I feel I need real nourishment that only home cooking can provide.
The trick is to keep it simple and soul soothing. When returning home from travels, you only have what’s in your freezer and pantry cupboard and those long-lasting vegetables such as onions and garlic at your disposal.
I needed something that reminded me of the spices from my travels. Something to make in one tray in the oven. So, when faced with a tray of chicken thighs, some cannellini beans and tomato paste and an oven set to 200ºC, deliciousness was sure to follow.
This dish hits the “happy to be home” spot and makes for great Monday leftovers too.
- 1 x tray of chicken thighs
- 1 or 2 cans of butter beans, (or cannellini beans or chickpeas) — drained and rinsed
- 1 large red onion, roughly chopped
- 5 garlic cloves peeled
- 2 handfuls of fresh coriander leaves and stalks
- 5 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons of runny honey
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 naartjie
- 1 cup of green beans, topped, tailed and cut in half
- Salt and pepper to taste
Spice Mix for chicken:
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 whole clove
- 3 cardammon pods — discard shells and keep seeds
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC
- In a food processor blend all the spice ingredients together with a squeeze of lemon, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, onion, honey, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and coriander stalks
- Place the chicken (skin side up), the butter beans, the carrots, 60ml of squeezed nartjie juice and about 100ml of water into a deep roasting dish — make sure the chicken is nicely nestled on top of everything
- Drizzle a little olive oil on top and then cover with foil and place in the oven, foil on, for about 30 minutes
- Remove the foil and allow to cook for another 40 minutes, turning the pan around at 20 minutes to let the chicken cook and brown evenly on all sides. Stir in the green beans at 20 minutes, so they can cook with the other vegetables in the sauce
- While the chicken is cooking, chop up the remaining coriander leaves, peel and segment the naartjie and roughly chop the flesh. Put it all into a bowl with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper
- Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes
- When ready to serve, drizzle the coriander/naartjie salsa over the dish and then serve straight from the roasting dish
Serve with rice, sweet potato mash, or crusty bread