I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic lately. I guess it’s the “season’s blues” kicking in. I long for summer, for sun and heat, for the seaside….and instead I am stuck on this side of the hemisphere, drawing the curtains every morning to welcome yet another gray, cloudy, rainy day. Hello Autumn. Nope, not my favourite time of the year…I mean…look at it…..brrrrrr
So at times like this (and with views like these) my mind always seems to drift off to the same “happy place”: the “Olden days”. Me at 7 or 8 years old, spending the Summer holidays in the village with my grandparents (both sets, mom and dad’s side, coming from the same little beautiful, serene corner of south-eastern Bulgaria). Me, floating between both houses, playing “strajari i apashi”( soldiers and fugitives) with hoards of other “city” kids…life was great! No worry in the world..and then, towards the end of the summer, inevitably everyone got involved in the winter produce preserve – be it jams, pickles, relishes or complete “meals in a jar”, both veggy and meaty. There is a particular taste that has stayed with me since then. One that I haven’t thought about (tasted) for 25 odd years..blimy I’m getting old! (Ding, ding ding, realisation time: I can now recall things that happened over 20-30 years ago!! Whaaaat!!!) and that’s my gran’s chicken confit! Or as they non-posh-ly call in in the village: “jar chicken” – “kokoshka v burkan”) The taste is actually amazing – the meat -even the white bits- just melts in the mouth. And with that you have the fatty, spreadable tasty bit on the top and the juicy, jelly bit that u scrape from the sides and bottom of the jar and gulp down…oh..my mouth fills up just thinking about it!
It is amazing how the brain never forgets a taste and how fast your tongue can recall it, many of years later, sending your whole soul into salivation, into “I have to have this” mode! So, YUP, I have to have THIS! Off to the supermarket for chicken!
Well, it’s my lucky day, I’m gonna do this one on the cheap
3 plump, lovely chickens for a tenner in Sainsburrys! Great!
First of all I am going to take all the good parts off the carcasses – tights, drumsticks, breast and wings. Butchering a chicken is a doodle, just follow the joints! All cut up now, I have put the “good” bits in one bowl and the carcases in another – they still have a fair amount of meat left on them that just cant go to waste! But we will talk about them later…now lets concentrate of the meaty bits: Get a handful of sea salt and spread it over the chicken portionsGet your hands working and massage the salt well onto the meat. Put in a colander, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge overnight to draw all juices out Its the next morning. I’ve sterilised 3 litre Kilner jars for 10 min in boiling water, drained and dried on a rack. Now. believe it or not, there are only 2 other ingredients that are going into the confit! I was on the phone with my mom’s 97 year old auntie this afternoon, checking on the recipe, cause the one I have just makes no sense….but it’s true! All you need to add to the chicken is black peppercorn and bay leaf. And even the bay leaf is a “bonus” ingredient – “If you don’t like it, don’t put it in” she said “But the peppercorns are a must, the act as a preservative”….Really? No water, no oil, no spices….no NOTHING…can’t be that simple….!
Well, it evidentially IS! “The secret”, she says, “is to pack the meat real tight in the jars”…Here I start with few black peppercorns and half a bay leaf on the bottom of the jar
Then another layer of chicken, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Then another all the way to the top of the jar!Then do the same with the rest of the jars. 3 Chickens, 3 (1 litre) jars. Beauties!Put in a big pot with a rack on the bottom. I don’t have a rack do I just spread a few bamboo skewers…anything like that will do, all you want is for the jars not to touch the bottom of the pan.
Fill the pot with cold water, bring to boil and set a timer for 2 hours. After the 2 hours have passed, take the jars out and let them cool off. Then transfer to the fridge overnight. What you end up the next day with is a miracle in a jar….beautiful, fragrant, melt in the mouth meat with settle, velvety flavour…just divine. Pop that lid and let the smell set your senses on fire!
….Ohhhhh, sweet taste of childhood!
But don’t forget, there are still those “carcases” to sort out – they are just destined to make gran’s lovely chicken soup
It is so easy to make and so so comforting and satisfying. Perfect for a rainy day!
Get a large pot on the hob, put the 3 chicken carcases in, a few black peppercorns, a pinch of sea salt and a couple of bay leaves. Poor 2 litres of cold water over ( or a bit more, you want the chicken completely submerged) and bring to a rapid boil
Make sure you skim the surface from the foam to keep the stock clear. If you miss it, the you will have to strain the liquid after the chicken is ready & before you can continue making the soupAfter about 30-35 minutes, the chicken is ready. Take it out to cool down slightly and strip off the bones. Cube 2 carrots, 3-4 new potatoes and 2 peeled tomatoes
Bring the stock back to a boil and add everything to it
Add a table spoon of Vegeta (vegetable seasoning) It is a spice that has been used in my gran’s and my mom’s since I remember myself and I was ever so surprised to find in on sale in all the big supermarkets here! It’s a brilliant thing to have in the cupboard! If you can’t find it, add a chicken or veggy stock cube Give the soup 5 minutes on a high heat and add a cup of flat (arborio or similar) rice
Mix one egg yolk with 3 tbsp natural yoghurt