The GP Advent Calendar of Cuisine — Chicken with pineapple à la Fidel Castro

Tachybaptus, Going Postal

Serves 4 to 6
This is perhaps the only good thing to emerge from that dismal person. It is, quite genuinely, a dish cooked by Castro’s guerrilla band when they were fighting to overthrow the Cuban government. It was recorded by the French war correspondent Gérard Chaliand.
The men would descend on a village and commandeer the ingredients at gunpoint. In the original version the chicken would have been a very tough village bird, and it would be marinated in fresh pineapple juice to make it tender before cooking. With supermarket chicken this is no longer necessary. Also, the fresh pineapple available in Britain is always nastily underripe and it’s better to used canned, but this is pasteurised and the tenderising enzyme has been broken down.
  • 1 kg chicken pieces of your choice
  • 2 medium large onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 standard (400 g) cans of tomatoes
  • 2 standard (400 g) cans of pineapple rings in juice
  • cooking oil
  • chillies or chilli powder to taste
  • salt
  • black pepper
Heat a little oil in a frying pan. Peel and coarsely chop the onions and fry them, stirring frequently, until browned but not burnt. While they are cooking, peel and chop the garlic and add it. When done, transfer to a big casserole with a lid.
Brown the chicken thoroughly and put the pieces in the casserole. Add the tomatoes, with the juice in the can. Add chopped chillies or chilli powder — use less than you think you need, you can always top it up later. The dish is meant to be a bit spicy but not curry hot. Add salt and grind in some black pepper.
There should be enough liquid to just cover the chicken pieces. Cover the casserole and put it on top of the stove. Bring the mixture to the boil, turn down the heat and leave it to simmer for 45 minutes, or 55 if using large drumsticks.
A quarter of an hour before it’s cooked, drain the juice off the pineapple. Cut each ring into 3 or 4 pieces, add to the mixture and stir it in. Bring back to the boil and reduce the heat to simmer again. If there’s too much liquid, remove the lid to let it evaporate.
Finally, correct the seasoning, adding more chilli if necessary. Serve with plain boiled rice. It goes well with green beans.