A casserole deserves a lot of attention for the best results – these textures and flavours take work to bring them together, but the final meal is worth it.
To feed six diners, you will need:
Peel and thinly slice the onions; crush, peel and finely chop the garlic. Pour 30ml extra virgin olive oil into an oven-proof casserole dish, preferably cast iron with a fitted lid.
Bring this up to medium heat on the stove and sweat the onions and garlic until the onions are soft and translucent.
Kill the heat, remove the vegetables from the oil and reserve in a covered dish for later. Now rev the oven to a non-traditional 190°C, then top and tail both brinjals, and slice off 6mm rounds.
Place these in one layer on one or two baking sheets, brush with some olive oil and sprinkle a little salt over. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove and reserve under cover.
Reheat the oily pot on the hob and add another 15ml of olive oil.
When hot, brown the chicken pieces with salt and half the quantity of the ground spices, excluding the pepper. Remove the chicken when browned all over – work in batches if necessary.
Add the oven-cooked brinjal to the oily pot and lower the heat, then pour over the sweated onion and garlic. Sprinkle over the second half of the ground spices, then add the browned chicken sections.
Pour in the chicken stock (home-made is better but quality powders or cubes will do) plus the lemon zest.
Bring the contents to a simmer then lower the heat, fit the lid and let the contents quietly bubble away for half an hour or until the chicken is cooked right through. Remove from the hob, let cool, then stick the whole pot and its contents into the fridge overnight.
And suddenly it’s the next day. Remove the layer of chicken fat and store it in a lidded jar in the fridge for another recipe.
Carefully rinse the baby spinach leaves to remove every last trace of earth. Add the leaves to the pot containing the chicken and brinjal done the previous day and bring to a slow boil on the hob.
Fit the lid, drop the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so until the pot contents are heated. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Serve on warmed plates with white rice, reserving the sauce in a gravy boat for each diner to add as they wish.
Finally, squeeze fresh lemon juice over each serving.
David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.
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