Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chicken with prunes

1 sliced onion
sliced fresh ginger
cinnamon stick
2 grated onions
dried prunes

From: Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. The recipe is quite ancient and was mentioned in the thirteenth century manuscript Kitab al Wusla il al Habib containing 74 chicken recipes.

Boil the chicken in plenty of water with sliced onion, salt, saffron, ginger and cinnamon. Simmer without a lid. After half an hour add the grated onions and cook until the chicken is tender. In the last half hour add the prunes and cook until the sauce is reduced.

I tried this with several chickens. I bought one in the supermarket (Albert Heijn) and was left with a sauce extremely rich in fat. The next day when the sauce was cold it had the consistency of jelly. Then I tried this recipe with a Dutch free range chicken (Polderhoen, origin: Flevopolder. Butcher: Reijn-Uljee). What a difference! The sauce was more tasty stock than fat. Modern supermarket chickens are very fatty because during their short lifespan they hardly move about. The food they’re eating is largely transformed into fat instead of lean protein.

In the Channel 4 program Dispatches: Supermarket Secrets you can see how one chicken can contain up to a pint (500 ml) of pure fat of the unhealthy kind (Omega-6 fatty acid). Skip to 34:34 in Part 1 of Supermarket Secrets.

You can recognize an obese fatty chicken: when the thighbone is soft, the chicken has not been walking much of her life. If you see brown spots ('hock burn', or ammonia burns) on the lower legs, the chicken has been laying down on a dirty floor for quite some time. Of course the price is also a give away. A proper free range chicken costs around 16 euro. A supermarket chicken can be as cheap as 3 euro.

Watch Dispatches: Supermarket Secrets Part 1 and Part 2.
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