I can be such a dork. A couple of weeks ago while catching up on my blog reading, I came across an event run by Barbara of Winos and Foodies called A Taste of Yellow. Most of you are already familiar with the yellow Livestrong armbands that aim to raise funds for and awareness of Tour de France hero Lance Armstrong’s foundation. The Foundation was started after Lance survived testicular cancer and went on to win the Tour de France multiple times and aims to provide information and support to cancer survivors. Once a year they celebrate Livestrong day, when supporters around the world make their voices heard, lobby governments to make cancer a national priority and participate in community events. I managed to make a mental note of this year’s date, 16 May, and also made a mental note to take part in A Taste of Yellow.
What many of you may not know is that Barbara is herself a cancer survivor and the event is her way of raising cancer awareness in the foodblogging community. And while I managed to remember the actual date of Livestrong Day, I managed to forget that her deadline for entries was 7 May, so that she could post by 16 May. Damn!! So when I started writing this post and went over to her site to get her URL, I found that I have missed the deadline. Bugger. I decided to post my recipe in any event and will have to see if I can inveigle myself into Barbara’s good books so that she will include it in her tremendous roundup of 144 yellow recipes.
Whether or not she includes my recipe, I felt very strongly that I wanted to participate. As you may recall, my dear friend Christelle who moved to London from South Africa at about the same time as me, was diagnosed with cancer in March 2005. She put up a tremendous fight and endured chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a spell in critical care when her kidneys failed. But despite this, she passed away in December 2005 three months short of her 30th birthday. And she is only one of a number of people that I know who have had to battle this disease. Three weeks ago, my sister in law Paola in South Africa contacted me to say that her sister Gail has breast cancer and was to undergo a mastectomy within 48 hours. She was told this week that she will also have to endure a course of chemotherapy. She’s like family to me and I am still reeling. I cannot imagine how she is feeling.
If you read Barbara’s excellent roundup post, I think she conveys something of the sense of shock that a diagnosis of cancer brings, both to the victim and their family and friends. In the breath between one sentence and another, your entire life changes. For some, the change is irrevocably for the worse. For others, it is the start of an arduous and painful but ultimately successful journey to a new life free of cancer. It is these people that the Livestrong Foundation celebrates and today, so do I.
Live happy, live sad, live fast, live slow – but live STRONG.
CHICKEN WITH FENNEL, SPICES AND CREAM (serves 2-3)
(adapted from a recipe in Nigel Slater’s eternally wonderful Kitchen Diaries. Nigel’s was cooked on the stovetop, while I did mine in the oven. The turmeric gives the dish a fantastic and vibrant yellow colour and the spices will perfume your whole house. The fennel cooks down to a very subtle taste and the spices are delicious – aromatic without being a curry as such.)
4 large chicken thighs
2 Tsp oil (I used canola) for frying
1 small onion sliced into rings
1 bulb of fennel, sliced into wedges
150ml double cream
1 small handful of coriander leaves (optional)
For the spice paste:
3 green cardamom pods
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
a pinch of ground chilli
1 small garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
oil to mix (I used canola again)
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and fry gently in an oven-proof casserole (Le Creuset dutch ovens work beautifully!) to get a bit of crispness on the skin side. Turn the thighs over and tuck the onions and fennel around them. Fry for another 5 minutes or so. Remove from the heat, cover and place in the pre-heated oven for about 40 minutes or until cooked through. Test by sticking a skewer into the meatiest past of the thigh – when the juices run clear with no sign of blood, the chicken is done.
While the chicken is cooking, make the spice paste. Lightly crush the cardamom pods so that you can get the black seeds out and discard the green husks. Crush the black seeds to a coarse powder with a pestle and mortar. Add the turmeric, cumin, chilli and garlic and continue pounding, mixing in the mustard and a tablespoon or two of oil as you go to make a thick paste. If you do not have a pestle and mortar, placing the cardamom seeds on a piece of clingfilm, folding it over to make a sealed capsule and them pounding away at them with a mallet or rolling pin also works
Lift the chicken out of the casserole dish with a draining spoon and set aside. Pour any excess oil out of the pan, then add the spice paste to the pan. Scrape up any sediment from the bottom of the dish with a wooden spoon and stir it in. Leave the paste to cook for a minute or two, taking care it doesn’t burn. Stir in the cream and immediately return the chicken and fennel to the pan. Allow to bubble on the stovetop for a few minutes until the creamy sauce is heated. Toss in the coriander leaves, if using.
Serve on brown rice.