14 September 2009

Round The World In 80 Dishes

In 1955 Lesley Blanch wrote a cookbook borrowing a theme from Jules Verne. Having traveled the world with her husband, Romain Gary, a French diplomat and author, she knew a thing or two about eating around the globe.

"It is said that a nation is made by what it eats: undoubtedly diet affects character," Blanch wrote in her foreword to Round the World in 80 Dishes.

Here is her recipe for a chicken from Africa.

Congo Chicken

1 3 pound chicken [one 3 pound chicken]
1/4 pound butter
6 green peppers
Peanut butter
1 cup roasted peanuts, unsalted

Take a 3-pound chicken, cleaned and prepared for roasting: now pack the inside with 1/4 pound butter and a handful of peanuts. Rub the chicken all over with salt and dabs of butter. Put in a medium oven and roast. The length of time depends on its weight: reckon 20 minutes to the pound. Thus a 3-pound chicken needs just about 1 hour. Baste it occasionally.

Meanwhile, take 6 green peppers and cook them whole, very fast, for 10 minutes, in a frying pan with very little oil. Let them get a bit burned, or blackened, outside. Take them off the fire, allow them to cool slightly, cut off the tops, scoop out the centres, cut the rest in strips, and put in the oven around the chicken, spooning a little of the butter the chicken in cooking in over them. Baste again when the chicken is half done. When your chicken is tender (prod the leg with a fork to see), take it out of the oven and spread it all over thinly with peanut butter. Salt it. Now take a cupful of chopped or coarsely ground roasted peanuts and sprinkle them all over your chicken. They will stick to the peanut butter and form a prickly-looking nutty coating. Put back into the oven and cook for another 5 or 6 minutes. Then serve surrounded by the green peppers. Eat plain rice with this, into which at the last moment you have sprinkled finely-chopped fresh green parsley.

As a rule, I am not fond of nuts in my food, but I have grown very fond of peanut butter as a cooking sauce for chicken.

I am also very fond of Lesley Blanch. Head over to Lucindaville for our more informative post on Blanch's life.

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