Parmesan-crusted chicken cutlet and creamy potato gratin (and “free” lunch)

It’s a good time to go back to eating frugally these days, I think, and a fun challenge too. Because of the lockdown, we try to make do with what we have in the house, and this calls for ‘creative cooking’, namely making resources stretch and experimenting with substitution.

I am making parmesan and garlic chicken with lemon and butter sauce for dinner. And then it occurred to me that I could debone the chicken to make a wholesome soup out of chicken bones, to which I could add spinach leaves and pasta to make another meal out of.

Recipe for the chicken:

  1. Debone two chicken quarters.
  2. Mix 2 cloves of minced garlic in one lightly beaten egg. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Marinade the chicken in the mixture for a few hours, better overnight.
  4. Mix half a cupful of flour with quarter a cupful of grated parmesan cheese.
  5. Coat the chicken in the mix.
  6. Fry in hot oil until the surface is slightly browned.
  7. Bake in oven for 30 minutes to cook the meat, and until the skin is crunchy.
  8. To make the sauce: saute 3 cloves of garlic in 6 tablespoons of butter. Add some chicken stock (about ¼ a cupful). Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce achieves the right consistency and smells fragrant. Season to taste.
  9. Pour sauce over the chicken. Serve piping hot.

Recipe for the potato gratin:

  1. Peel, rinse and pat-dry potatoes. Slice the potatoes thinly. (I used about 1 kg)
  2. In a large pan, place the sliced potatoes, 1 clove of garlic, 4 fl oz of milk, 4 floz of double cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a pan.
  3. Simmer gently until the cream has thickened.
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in about 100g of grated cheddar or gruyere until the cheese melts.
  5. Butter an oven-safe dish. Transfer the potato mixture into the dish. Top with more cheese if you like.
  6. Bake until the top is golden brown and the potatoes soft.


Recipe for the soup:

  1. Boil chicken bones with ginger, spring onions, carrots and whatever vegetables you have.
  2. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to extract the marrow.
  3. Boil for about a couple of hours.
  4. Season with salt and pepper at the end of cooking time. Add spinach.
  5. Cook the pasta separately and add to the soup (this goes better with smaller pasta but I didn’t have any at home).


So good that I made it again a couple of days later.



Waldorf way for adults

Since the youngest of my children left home, I have not thought much about the Waldorf way of living, a philosophy that I felt was very important when it comes to raising and educating children.

Until Woy.

He showed me endlessly that we must not stop believing in magic or stop cultivating a magical space for ourselves – adults need magic, too, and a sense of wonder, a connection to our past, and a desire to live joyously wherever we find ourselves.

I used to grow children, now I am his co-grower of plants. He grows things – anything! – cultivates discarded plants, germinates seeds, hums whilst he nurtures the green beings.

“Why do you bother taking cuttings?” I asked him. “You can buy these tiny cacti for about £2, and they never work, anyway.”

He answered. “Every morning when I wake up, I am excited to see how these babies are doing. That’s hope.”

I too have begun looking forward to checking the progress of his ‘babies’ every morning. We now have all sorts of things growing in our tiny patio, from flowers (that I love) to herbs, lettuce, celery, chilli, spring onions, and potatoes.  And that daily hope in Nature brings me closer to the world I live in. It opens my eyes to the more sublime wonders of the universe too, not just the spectacular shooting stars but dewdrops trapped in cobwebs, the birth of new birds, the microscopic pattern of fern spores. The present and the future, if you like, in the fingerprints of everyday living that we often remain blind to. Yet hope and wonder elevate existence into joyous living – for what is the purpose of life, without these twin beacons to guide us to our best selves?

Hope and wonder are good things to cultivate in human beings, but we also need a connection to our past, to keep us grounded, as per the old adage: wings and roots. You can’t get either through academic or career achievements – these are the temporary highs, because when you take your last breath, it is just you and the world, making your peace with the life you have led. As you bring yourself into the present and the future, as embodied by blooming flowers and growing seeds, you seek too for your past to complete the trinity, to keep the triangle of life poised in beautiful balance. Understanding where you come from forms the foundation of the Waldorf calendar – I remember teaching my children about festivals and celebrations, from pagan times to giving thanks daily for where we are today.

But where to find that? Do we have to buy books, enrol in courses, invest in learning?

“All we ever need, we were born with,” Woy often says.

Because we don’t share a common love of literature, he picked up the Bible one evening, totally out of the blue, and read a passage out loud. “I didn’t think you’re that religious,” I said in surprise.

“Well, it’s our history, isn’t it?” He said. “Story of humanity.” He often tells the story of his childhood in communist Poland, the story of his parents and grandparents, with all its attendant hardships and celebrations.

And so, as we confine ourselves in splendid isolation in our little nest, I begin to write the story of my mother’s people, the Celts. I find, to my surprise, that there are many commonalities between our parents’ and grandparents’ stories, despite the different countries and different languages.

“What did I tell you?” He laughs. “It’s the story of humanity, Jacq! It’s agnostic to borders and it speaks in a unified tongue. Dig deep and it’s there.”

And with that, he steps out into our small garden, to breathe in the fresh air and to admire the clear skies above him, leaving me to marvel at his words and write them down.