For the vast majority of the population, mum’s always the best cook. Even when I tease my mother because she never measures ingredients or because she has occasionally fallen asleep and let dinner burn, I will always think her food is the best in the planet. She learned to cook because she “had to” when she got married and even when she worked hard for 33 years of her life, she managed to have a delicious dinner on the table most days (when she actually cooked instead of reheating or frying some processed food-like stuff).
One of the dishes my sisters and I love the most is my mum’s ultra-simple roast chicken with potato mash. We had a nickname for it: “burnt chicken with real mash”. Burnt chicken because my mum cooks the hell out of the chicken in order to get an extra crispy skin. Real mash because for several years she used instant mash and when she went back to real potatoes the difference was massive (you’ll need to try Peruvian yellow potatoes to understand what I mean, please do so if you ever go to Perú).
I’ve cooked her dish several times over the last few years, but I never manage to get the skin right. Maybe I don’t cook it long enough because I’m afraid the flesh dries out. This time I cooked a slightly different version to accommodate a diner that is doing a detox diet. I used tamari instead of Chinese soy sauce, ghee instead of butter and cassava instead of potato for the mash.
My mum has 100% Japanese blood but is very Peruvian in the kitchen. Which means: she used to serve the chicken with mash and rice (Peruvian food = starch + starch, and sometimes more starch) instead of salad. I skip the rice and add some greens, this time I served it with a simple salad of steamed broccoli, carrot and baby corn mixed with baby spinach, with a dressing made with peanut butter (home-made), honey, tamari, balsamic vinegar, water, sesame oil and ginger (the dressing was adapted from this recipe).
Roast chicken and cassava mash
Yield: 4-6 servings
4 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce)
3 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons ghee (or butter)
1 kg frozen cassava
1 cup coconut milk
salt and pepper
Pre-heat oven to 220C.
Peel and remove the germ the garlic cloves. Mash into a paste with the blade of your knife or pass through a garlic press. If you’re extra-lazy, used pre-minced garlic.
Dry chicken with paper towels. Rub completely with tamari and garlic, place on a baking tray on its back and scatter small pieces of ghee all over it.
Place tray in oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn chicken around (on its breast). Bake for another 30 minutes. Check if the skin is crispy enough for you, otherwise let bake for another 10-20 minutes.
While the chicken bakes, boil the cassava in salted water until tender (around 30 minutes).
Remove the hard stems of the cassava and mash it while still hot (it gets harder when it cools down).
Return cassava to the pot over low heat and mix with coconut milk until heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with a salad.