This is one of those recipes that has real a family legacy. Whenever we serve it the story that comes with it is obligatory, so obviously I feel compelled to share it here.
Back in 2000 my dad took a sabbatical off work and as a family we went traveling, the trip culminating in us living in New Zealand for 5 months. My sisters and I went to school there, we rented a house and adopted a full on Kiwi lifestyle for the duration of our stay.
A family favorite was always this bake. It features layers of chicken, mozzarella and grilled vegetables on a bed of homemade tomato sauce.
One time Elle, my older sister, had a friend called Holly around and my parents served this for dinner. Holly enjoyed it so much she asked for the recipe and attempted to make it at home for her parents.
Before I continuing I should point out that there was not much of a foodie culture out there, not in the way us Brits do it anyway.
One of the most prominent issues I recall having was the fact that they didn’t have Heinz tomato ketchup. Instead, they had this monstrosity of a condiment called ‘Whatties tomato sauce’, the local replacement for my beloved Heinz. Its tag line was ‘you’ll always be a Kiwi if you love our Whattie’s sauce’, needless to say, not being a Kiwi, I was not a fan.
But anyway, back to Holly. It transpires she had later attempted to make this dish but instead of making a tomato sauce with chopped onions, garlic and tinned tomatoes etc, she had simply up-ended several bottles of ‘Whattie’s tomato sauce’ into a baking dish and then layered the chicken, veg and mozzarella on top. Not so yummy me thinks.
So, to honor her valiant effort my family named the dish after her.
Here is my (I promise more yummy than Holly’s) version:
2 tblsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts
2 large courgettes
1 block of mozzarella
1 small bunch of basil, leaves picked and stalks finely chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, chopped
½ a chili, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
large handful freshly grated parmesan
Salt and Pepper
Pre heat your oven to 200 Degrees.
In a pan sweat the onions in half the oil.
When soft throw in the garlic, chili, oregano and basil stalks. Sweat until fragrant then add the chopped tomatoes and half a tin of water.
Season and leave to simmer until it thickens.
While that simmers slice your courgettes, brush with rest of the olive oil and stick under the grill, turn when golden and remove when soft and golden on both sides.
Meanwhile, slice your chicken breasts lengthways into 4 strips and your mozzarella into slices.
When everything is ready assemble the bake;
Put the tomato sauce in the base, then in rows layer the courgette, chicken, and mozzarella until the dish is full. Push some basil leaves in between some of the layers and then sprinkle with the parmesan.
Bake until golden on top and bubbling.
Serve with pasta, crusty bread or whatever you fancy.