Life has so many ups and downs and at some stage most of us will walk head-on into a situation that is unavoidable, unpleasant and pretty much unmanageable. However, there’s definitely a scale and at the moment all of my head-ons are paling into insignificance when I think about the situation my friends are facing.
When I say ‘friends’, I mean we have never shared a meal together nor are they even on my Christmas card list but for the past couple of years we have been attending the same church and that is where our relationship with them has had its beginnings.
They are a couple with three sons and a few years ago the wife was diagnosed with a very rare type of untreatable and incurable lung disease where gradually over time it becomes increasingly more difficult to breathe. In the last few months her condition has severely worsened causing her to have to be on permanent oxygen therapy. I last saw her at church about six weeks ago and she sat in a seat right in front of us. Alfie became so distressed at seeing her suffering that every night when I put him to bed he reminds me that we must pray for her. And together we send up a few prayers.
Over the last few weeks she has, very sadly, rapidly gone downhill with severe pulmonary hypertension being added in to the mix and she is now in hospital in intensive care where all that can be done for her is being done. She is on the list for a lung transplant and while we don’t wish death upon anyone, the reality is people do die. And Alfie and I are just praying that any available lungs will be a perfect match for this beautiful wife and mother.
As well as saying our prayers, our church leaders have said it would be very helpful for the family if some home-cooked meals could be delivered to their door. I’m sure that like me, you all know what it’s like to have family members in hospital. It’s so difficult to eat right and skipping meals becomes normal and you just don’t get to do food shopping or have time to cook. Some home-cooked heat-and-serve meals can be just the answer.
Alfie is on school holidays and yesterday he asked me if I could take him to Luna Park. I said, ‘Alfie, we can’t just say prayers for our friend, we have to help out in a practical way too’. And so we put Luna Park on hold and he helped me go food shopping and then come home and cook.
We made a chicken cacciatore and packaged it up in some disposable containers with a box of pasta and a bottle of red wine to have with it and then a raspberry cheesecake for dessert. I appreciate that this is just a very small offering on our part and there are so many others doing so much more for this family including help with the boys and cleaning their house etc.
What I really hope comes from this Italian dish and American dessert above some calories and a bit of nutrition is that the family knows people are thinking of them.
The cheesecake is the same as Mum’s Baked Cheesecake however instead of grating nutmeg over it I piled on the fresh raspberries.
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: This is a modestly priced family meal where all ingredients are readily available.
- 2 tbspns olive oil
- 6 chicken drumsticks
- 6 chicken thigh cutlets
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 4 rashers of bacon, rind removed, chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
- 2 carrots finely chopped
- 150mls dry white wine
- 800g (28 oz) tinned tomatoes
- 250mls (1 cup) chicken stock
- a large handful of Swiss Brown mushrooms, halved
- 1 bay leaf
- 2/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
- handful of parsley, chopped
Pre-heat oven to 180C (375F).
Heat olive oil in a large oven-proof dish (I used my Le Creuset) on medium-high heat. Add chicken in batches and brown on all sides then remove and set aside. In the same pan add onion, garlic, bacon, celery and carrots and cook for 10 minutes or until softened. Return chicken to pan and add white wine and bring to the boil. When the alcohol has evaporated, add tomatoes, stock, mushrooms and bay leaf. Place lid on pot and place in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and add olives. Return to the oven for 10 minutes without the lid.
Sprinkle parsley over top of chicken dish and serve on heated plates with a short pasta like penne.
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