This week with the release of The Christie Curse: a book collector mystery, readers will get a chance to meet Senora Panetone, the eccentric cook for Vera Van Alst, curmudgeonly collector and employer of Jordan Bingham, research assistant, dogsbody and now amateur sleuth. Jordan loves the job and she especially loves the mountainous meals served by the talented and zany senora ."Eat! You eat!" As we are polishing book two: The Sayers Swindle, it’s time to pick the right recipes to include at the end of the book (and in the meals eaten).
We find this one irresistible! Although the senora would make this simple chicken dish using ripe, luscious tomatoes and juicy peppers from her own garden, it’s even good in the winter with whatever passes for tomatoes and peppers.
Made in March, it's not as good as the late summer version, but it's very tasty. And for you busy people out there, it’s easy to make, reasonably quick cooking and even better the next day.
Pollo ai Peperoni
This is a typical and traditional Italian dish. Senora usually makes it this way, but sometimes she changes it to keep you on your toes, or because she has a little more or less of something.
2 chickens, cut into serving pieces
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, slivered
½ cup dry white wine (whatever you have, although in Rome it would probably be Frascati)
3 juicy peppers, seeded and cut in strips. We used orange and green to contrast with the tomatoes
1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped.
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp (or to taste) dried thyme
1/4 cup flour for chicken
If the senora was writing this, she might say, first you catch your chicken. Please take the easier route and buy the chicken already cut - although free range might make it better! We cut it ourselves and it was the longest part of the recipe.
To skin the tomatoes, pop into a pot of boiling water for about 1 minute or until skin splits. Remove with a slotted spoon, remove skin, quarter tomatoes, take out seeds and shop the rest.
In a large pan, heat the oil with the garlic for about 5 minutes. Dry the chicken and shake in a bag with the flour. You can skip this stage if you want, but it won’t brown as nicely. Add chicken to the oil and garlic and brown the pieces all over. If there is too much chicken fat in the pan, you may want to remove some with a bulb baster. Then sprinkle with wine.
Cook for two minutes, then add the tomatoes and the peppers. Season with salt and pepper, cover tightly and simmer for about 40 minutes.
Don’t cook too high or too long if you want the chicken to be tender and you do.
And while we're here, what's your favorite Italian dish?