Happy endings in the kitchen episode 20: Chicken fesenjun

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Enchantment

Are you suffering from dating exhaustion? Tired of swiping right to disappointment? Kissed too many amphibians in princely clothing?

Well allow me to introduce you to HopelessRomantic. 

Yes, HopelessRomantic. It was a lonely Saturday night of home-cooked pasta and leftover cheesecake in my thin-walled one bedroom apartment. I could hear the thump of commencing parties and the frantic heels of my next door neighbour. Company was needed. Ok Cupid, sharpen your arrow. I first saw him in his profile picture, overflowing with enthusiasm as he jumped through the sky, his beautiful brown limbs extended like a gazelle and his eyes inviting some kind of other worldly adventure. The conversation began and flowed naturally between us as we carved out our impressions of each other, and moved quickly to open our very own whatsapp conversation. Born in Sri Lanka he had lived all over the world and was currently visiting his native country for a short contract of work as a wildlife photographer. He was also a composer in the stages of completing his first album, his music alike to a fantasy film score, inspired by the imaginary and unseen. His humour was witty and oh so funny, his nature soft and inquisitive, and generous of spirit as he shared his love of art, enchantment, dogs, elephants, and mangoes. Note: He was in Sri Lanka, 8348 kilometres away. But as our conversation traversed religion, fantasies of parallel universes, and our mutual desire for soul-wrenching love I felt my world begin to expand, my iphone screen exhaling wonder into the air around me, dipping my senses in fairy dust. His imagination flirted with the thought of sending his magic carpet across the seas to scoop me up and deliver me to Singapore, where he would be waiting with orang-utans for a sunrise breakfast. I was truly spellbound.

And so, it was a Whatsapp love story. We talked into the early hours and he kissed my cheek from afar before I sunk into dreams of waterfalls, tropical fruit, humid perspiration, miraculous sunsets, and moonlit jungles. And he was there with me when I woke the next morning, investing time to discover every detail of my world and sharing his with me. My life quickly became full of him as we poured ourselves into each other, inspiring each other with our musical tastes, discussing our fears and disappointments, and choreographing fantastical romantical meet ups. We cyber laughed, our wicked senses of humour combining gleefully. He offered to create a website for my business venture and encouraged the creative in me. And he timidly shared his haunting musical compositions and breathtaking photographic images. He was forever dreaming up projects, like the large fishpond he was building in his backyard. His imagination was a universe in itself, it’s stars burning so brightly. Every part of me was alive with feeling, my senses awakened to a new and superior reality. I was flying high above the clouds, “soaring, tumbling, freewheeling through an endless diamond sky”. And he was there. He was there for the beginning and the end of my day. He was there when I discovered that the woman I thought was orgasming regularly at 7 am was actually a whiny little dog. He was there with therapeutic advice and caressing words when I was unexpectedly laid up in bed. He was there with me on the late night tram, together with the loud talking prostitute who was grieving her late cat, Fester. He became part of every special moment. And I was there for his. I was his darling, his smile, his happy sigh. He was so present in my world that I could almost taste his salty lips and smell the ripening mangoes in his backyard.  

Within weeks we had established our very own universe. Nothing of consequence seemed to exist outside of it. The air around me was heavy with intoxicating spices. But as we revealed more and more of ourselves a certain kind of melancholy crept in. He became self-deprecating, hopeless and frustrated. He spoke of his yearning for a muse, believing she would be the link to his artistic success, as though he were Beethoven himself. I plied him with compliments and became a constant source of reassurance, all the while doubting if I was enough for him. Our magic carpet lost momentum and flopped dramatically to the sandy ground of some unknown wilderness, not an oasis or genie in sight. I was exhausted and emotionally parched. What had happened to our magic?

Hoping to become airborne once again, I persisted. But the more I championed him the more hopeless he became. He declared his work futile and without soul. If I were his muse I was failing. He became distracted, coming and going from conversations, stating that he was feeling wretched and needing rest. I wanted to be there to kiss his cares away but he seemed to be slipping into another dimension altogether. But during a particularly agonising interaction he disappeared intermittently and then on return to the conversation called me by another name. A name I didn’t answer to. He cleverly explained the name was for a character he was writing into a short story but when it happened a second time I started to smell a rodent. It seemed I was not the only contender in his quest to find a muse. And as he slowly disappeared into the virtual sunset I felt the veil of enchantment dissolve. I had been trapped in my very own fantasy world, in love with the intangible and transcendental. Playing the part and not living it.

I still smile when I think of HopelessRomantic. He was truly spectacular in many ways. But he was also spectacularly foolish. Everything he needed for success was inside of himself. No muse required. Even though I would have been a truly spectacular choice. But enough of this spell casting, carpet playing, wish denying, enchantment trading, Aladdin faking misfit. I will be a muse only unto myself because therein lies the magic. It’s time to enter the kitchen and dream up a dish to enrapture my tastebuds into a flight of fantasy while my feet remain firmly on the ground. 

A taste of Magic – Chicken Fesenjun

Ingredients:

5 to 6 chicken lovely legs

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, diced

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 tbsp tomato paste

1tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 cup pomegranate juice

1-2 tbsp sugar to taste

1 tbsp honey

1 bay leaf

200 g shelled walnuts

1 tsp salt or to taste

Fresh pomegranate, seeded

fresh lemon juice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Scatter walnuts on a baking pan and roast until golden brown. Once ready remove them from the oven and place in a clean tea towel. Rub over with the tea towel and remove as many of the walnut skins as possible. Now place the walnuts in a food processor and blitz until coarsely ground.  

Add olive oil to a deep based frying pan. Brown the chicken legs well and remove from the pan. Add onion and fry until translucent. Add all the spices and the tomato paste and stir through until fragrant. Add the pomegranate molasses, pomegranate juice, walnuts, sugar, honey and bay leaf. Season to taste. Put the lid on the pan and leave to cook on a low heat for an hour or longer, stirring at intervals. Add a little water if required. 

Once ready serve with plain basmati rice and scatter with pomegranate seeds. Add a little fresh lemon juice for acidity to taste.

This Persian dish has sent me soaring and tumbling in flavour induced ecstasy. It’s a whole new world. Three wishes? No need. Just this. 

And while this dish may have looked like it had already been digested once served it was so good I once again ate it all before taking my celebratory ‘into the tunnel’ photo. So here I am with an empty spoon and happy tummy.

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