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Chicken and Plantain Moqueca. 

What you need to know:

  • Do it yourself. Chicken and Plantain Moqueca. The main ingredient is plantain in a different form.

Plantain also known as gonja, is a fruit but considered to be a vegetable. In the West Indies it is eaten green, though in my view in this state it is bland and too starchy, rather like a yucca root or potato. Medium ripe gonja is yellow and slightly sweet.  Unlike in Brazil, Nigeria and Ethiopia, here in Uganda, gonja is either grilled, fried or steamed and never cooked in stew form with meat, fish or chicken. 

When I was in New York during the 1960s, we used to go to a great Brazilian restaurant somewhere downtown and they would cook a mean chicken and plantain Moqueca. This happens to be a variation of the Brazilian traditional well known and much loved seafood Moqueca.

Amazingly, the plantain brings out an incredible soft sweetness as well as loads of starch to the stew which gives it a nice rich thickness. I have seen some recipes use green plantains which are treated like  a potato, but just like Ugandans, true Brazilians would never be caught dead eating green gonja. Besides, ripe gonja has a more pronounced sweetness and starch which also produces more juice. 

This is pretty much a straight forward stewing dish that also adapts well to a slow cooker and naturally takes longer than the fish version, but when you taste the eclectic combination of chicken and plantain you will be enthralled.   

1.Place the chicken pieces in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper plus two tablespoons of the olive oil. Rub the chicken all over with the oil, making sure that it is well distributed and cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours. 
2.    Pour the remaining oil into a large flameproof casserole and swirl around so that the entire base is covered. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down, and brown them lightly over a medium heat for about 5 minutes per side.
3.    Using a pair of tongs, transfer the chicken pieces to a clean bowl and cover with foil, making sure that no steam can escape. 
4.    Add the onion, spring onions and green pepper to the pan and cook them in the leftover oil, stirring them often until they become translucent, allow no more than three to four minutes. Add the white wine and reduce by half, while using a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits that remain in the pan and at this juncture add the garlic and ginger and cook stirring for another minute or so before adding the Royco. 
Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, tomato paste and bay leaves and bring to a boil.
5.    Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and add the chicken and any remaining juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Season lightly with the salt and pepper. Remember that Royco has salt so go easy with the salt. Simmer covered until the chicken becomes tender which should take no more than an hour or so. As you are cooking, by all means feel free to taste and correct the seasoning and adjust accordingly.
6.    In the meantime, trim the ends off the gonja and cut out three  to four  vertical slits in the skin, making sure not to cut deep into the fruit. Peel and cut the plantain into  one  inch chunks. 
7.    Add the plantain to the Moqueca after it has been simmering for an hour or so.  Cover and continue to simmer until the plantain becomes soft but not overcooked or mushy. Allow about 10 to 15 minutes. If the liquid appears to be too runny, uncover the pan and continue to gently simmer thus allowing the steam to evaporate and thicken the stew.  Taste and correct seasoning. 
8.    A few minutes prior to serving, add the sliced tomatoes and garnish with the chopped cilantro and serve over white rice or farofa. In case you cannot find manioc flour prepare some posho, though this is not a substitute, do not hesitate to mingle some and make it the accompaniment. 

Serves 4 – 6 
1 whole chicken, or your favorite chicken parts, cut into 8 pieces and leave the skin intact. 
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil or your preferred cooking oil
2 medium size onions, thinly sliced
4 spring onions sliced on the diagonal
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
150 ml dry white wine
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
1 large piece of fresh ginger root, finely grated
800 ml chicken stock  
400 ml coconut milk
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Royco (chicken)
2 – 3 bay leaves
½ kg ripe plantains
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and sliced into strips
6 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (dhaniya)