I have very fond memories of my Grandma’s delicious cooking. Getting to go to Grandma’s house was always special, as Grandma lives in Texas (USA, not Queensland!) and we grew up in Australia, so we only got to visit Grandma now and then. Whenever I close my eyes and imagine Grandma, I see her with her apron on, wooden spoon in hand, standing over the stove in her homey, country kitchen in the cutest house you ever saw, happily cooking up something wonderful for bunches of hungry children and uncles and aunts. Grandpa would be sitting in the rocking chair in the kitchen telling us tall stories or making ‘cowboy coffee’ in a pan on the stove, everyone laughing and talking at once, kids running in and out, the smell of dinner cooking making us all hungry…
Mum says that when she was growing up, it didn’t matter how early in the morning she got up, her mother was already in the kitchen cooking. I can hardly think of Grandma except in her kitchen! I was so heartbroken when she had to sell her house and move into a small unit after Grandpa died. I even had nightmares about it. I can hardly bear to think of someone else cooking in the kitchen that was Grandma’s for over 50 years! Loved that house.
My Grandma is an amazing cook. So is my mum, obviously because she learnt from the master! It never seemed to matter how little was in the cupboard or fridge, they could make a three course meal out of it and everyone would be raving about how delicious it was. I have lots of Grandma’s recipes written down on little recipe cards, all smudged and floury from years of use, ever since I got married and got my own little kitchen. We’d only been married about two weeks when we invited an older couple over for dinner (if only Grandma and Grandpa lived nearby we would’ve invited them!) – and of course I just had to cook my Grandma’s cherry pie for dessert. It wasn’t quite as good as hers (when I cut it, the filling kind of oooozed out of the crust and the whole thing deflated!), but it was reassuring to have Grandma’s recipes there to see me through my first try at entertaining, at the tender age of 21.
My Grandma will be reading this blog post (Hi Grandma!) and she’ll probably say what she always says whenever I talk to her on the phone: ‘How do you DO all that you do! Every time I read your blog I have to go lay down, it makes me so tired!’ Which is hilariously funny, because she was much busier than me, with rascally twin boys and two other kids, doing everything by hand the old fashioned way, sewing their own clothes, making everything ‘from scratch’ including bread and baby formula, and as I always remind her, she didn’t have a Thermomix! I try to explain how this ‘machine’ saves me so much time, but she can’t quite fathom it, never having seen one. I dream of one day hopping on a plane with my Thermomix tucked under my arm and turning up at Grandma’s, and cooking with her for days on end. She can sit in the rocking chair and teach me her recipes and tell me the stories behind them, and I can show her how my amazing ‘machine’ can make preparing them so much easier. That’s my dream.
But when it comes to this recipe for ‘Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic’, I’m afraid I just can’t do it any other way than Grandma’s way. This is how she taught me to make it, and I love it just the way it is, so I’m not changing it. But I don’t make the bread by hand like she did, to serve with the deliciously mild, baked garlic cloves. And I don’t make the mashed potatoes and veges by hand either, these days. All of that is done in the Thermomix while the chicken’s bubbling away in the oven. So when dinner’s done, I don’t feel so tired I need to lie down.
Thanks, Grandma, this is for you.
(P.S. You’ve probably seen this recipe around the place – I have no idea where it originally came from. All I know is my Grandma used to make it for us, and in my mind it equals ‘comfort food’ at it’s very best!)
Update: I just had to share this gorgeous ‘end’ to the above story…
Grandma is in a nursing home ‘assisted living’ unit now, on her own, and doesn’t cook much these days. My Aunt takes her a home-cooked dinner every day. (My Aunt is an amazing cook too!) But when Grandma read this blog post (as I knew she would), the memories of comforting family meals came flooding back, and she got up and cooked it once again, in her tiny little kitchenette, reliving the memories. She sounded so happy on the phone as she told me how much she enjoyed it. I only wish I could’ve been there to enjoy it with her. I’m sure she’s still an awesome cook at the age of 91.
- 40 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- 1 large, organic chicken, cut into pieces
- 1 cup white wine or chicken broth or a mixture
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or duck fat
- fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
- fresh sage, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage)
- fresh parsley, chopped
- 4 small bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon herb salt & some freshly ground pepper
- Scatter garlic cloves over the bottom of a casserole dish. You can use a shallow dish if you want more crispy skin, or a deep dish if you want softer, juicier chicken.
- Place chicken pieces over the garlic, skin side up.
- Sprinkle the chicken with wine or broth, drizzle with oil or dot with fat, and sprinkle with seasonings and herbs.
- Cover the dish tightly with foil (and a lid if it has one) to hold in the steam. Bake at 180C for 2-3 hours. (Chicken will be cooked in 2 hours, but is softer if cooked longer.)
- Remove lid and foil, and return to the oven to brown for another 15 minutes at 200C. Discard bay leaves.
- Serve with cauliflower or potato mash, with the chicken juices drizzled over, lots of steamed veges or a leafy green salad, and some homemade bread if you like. Squeeze the garlic from the skins onto the bread or mash, sprinkled with herb salt.
(Yes, that’s a couple of bulbs of garlic – don’t worry, baked garlic is really quite mild, just so long as you leave the cloves whole and unpeeled. I actually used a little less this time, since the organic garlic that I buy is gigantic!)
* Here’s how to make mashed potato and steamed veges in the Thermomix:
– Weigh 1000g of cubed potatoes into the Thermomix bowl. Sprinkle with salt, and add some butter or ghee if you like.
– Reset the scales and weigh in 200g of water and 200g of milk. (I use my rice-almond milk.)
– Place the Varoma on top and fill with thinly sliced veges, hard ones on the bottom, soft ones on the top. Make sure there’s a hole poked through for the steam.
– Cook at Varoma temperature for 20 minutes, speed 1. Check that the veges are done – if not, add a couple more minutes.
– Remove Varoma dish, and bowl lid; push butterfly down into potato until it fits onto the blades. Replace lid and mix for 10-15 seconds on speed 4, until mashed.