Here, fresh dates edify the palate in a chicken stew. Thankfully.
So one evening, I was making a stew in my best cast iron pot from South Africa – my Bush Baby. As I often do, I looked through the fridge to see what could go in, in a kitchen-sink kind of way…and saw the dates.
I suspected, chopped up in a stew, they would absorb some of the flavours, maybe lose their astringency and generally be of more use than they’d been, sitting still.
I adopted the The Art of Soup way that I almost always.
This time, I began by searing off some seasoned chicken, with a mix of salt, ground coriander, black lemon powder and Za’atar. I did this skin-side down.
Once the pieces had taken on gorgeous, golden colour, I flipped over using tongs so the fleshy sides could brown.
While the chicken cooked, I chopped up vegetables.
Once, colour had been attained, I removed the chicken from the pan and sauteed the vegetables – onions and carrots, stirring all the time with my Aga Living spoon, the blue strip of colour blending well with the cast iron, the need to serve up wholesome and contemporary…
Once the veggies softened, I put the chicken back in. I topped with water, leftover lemon-cream sauce my daughter made some time ago and some seasoning – black lemon powder, preserved lemons, coriander powder, fresh chilies – chopped up and left to simmer.
When the stew was almost ready, I added fresh dates that I had cut in half and then some.
And allowed them simmer for a quarter of an hour, till they softened and had become juicy.
For some reason, some turned dark blue at the edges but all of them ended up so delicious. Part sweet, only a little crunch but a 100 times better than eating fresh.
My daughte,r J and her friend, A loved them in their lunch boxes – they weren’t home when I made the pot so wondered if the bits were mushrooms :). They have a peculiar look and flavour yes but not quite the chewy, or earthiness of mushrooms. Either way, they loved ’em.
Talk about welcome additions to the pot.
We enjoyed this with bread, rice, straight from the pot, and more.