Chicken Tonight?

Recently at work I was up to my elbows in depressing statistics about New Zealanders’ lack of cooking skills and food knowledge. The research showed, among other things, that young people couldn’t tell the difference between a zucchini and a cucumber, had no idea where pumpkins came from and mostly ate alone, accompanied by a mobile phone, computer or TV.
I was appalled by this – and thankfully so are lots of our readers, who are all now contributing their own recipes in a bid to ‘get New Zealand cooking’.
Even so, I’ve got a strong hunch that the re-imagining (via reality TV) of food and cooking as entertainment has made a lot of people think that cooking is a hard task best left to the experts. When, really, anyone can do it. At least, anyone can make this easy chicken dinner. If there’s someone a bit oven-shy in your household, let them loose on this.

The easiest chicken dinner ever TM
Only the most rudimentary cooking skills are required for this dish – if you can turn on an oven, open a tin and do a bit of light chopping, you’ll be able to manage it with ease. This can be varied to suit your supplies and your palate. Suggested additions include a bit of chopped streaky bacon and some capers, or chopped sundried tomatoes.

For four people:

2 Tbsp olive oil
8 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 red onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
a sprig or two of fresh rosemary, thyme or oregano, if you have it
1 cup black olives, stoned
1 400ml tin of chopped Italian tomatoes (I’ve used a tin of cherry tomatoes in the dish pictured)
a splash of wine

Heat the oven to 180C. Drizzle the olive oil over the bottom of an ovenproof dish big enough to take the chicken in one layer. Sprinkle over the onion and garlic then put the chicken on top. Scatter over the herbs, if using, and olives, then pour over the tin of tomatoes and a splash (about 100ml) of wine. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Add a splash of wine during the cooking if the sauce looks a bit dry. Serve with crusty bread or couscous.

What advice do you give people who are scared of cooking?



  1. October 28, 2012 / 7:14 pm

    what are parents and teachers doing that they don't teach this basic stuff to their kids? it really angers me that we leave everything up to the television these days when learning to cook should be a fundimental basic… lovely looking chicken dish!

  2. October 28, 2012 / 7:33 pm

    A perfect simple chicken dinner – which should inspire people who dislike cooking. I would advice people who are scared of cooking with starting with cooking and simple dishes and they will never not want to cook again x

  3. October 28, 2012 / 7:50 pm

    I recommend a whole chicken (half the price per kilo as chicken pieces), sprinkled with salt, in the oven at 190 for and hour and a half. 30 minutes in throw in some chopped up potatoes and carrots.

    It's super basic, but people who don't cook are pretty impressed with the result and how cheap it is… which is when I say "if you liked roast chicken like that, wait till you try roasting it with some herbs, garlic and lemon."

  4. October 28, 2012 / 8:27 pm

    I haven't met too many people who can't cook themselves dinner, but for those who claim not to be able to "bake" I always give them a one pot melt-n-mix cupcake recipe that is totally foolproof. And I agree with the previous comment – cooking a roast chicken is a great confidence booster…too easy!

  5. October 28, 2012 / 9:08 pm

    I don't know anyone who can't cook, but I would say in my 'learning to cook journey' being able to roast a chicken and make soup were both world-opening moments. Both so easy, but I had percieved them as being complicated and time consuming. MAstering those gave me the confidence to master other things.
    And how can people not know where a pumpkin comes from???

  6. October 29, 2012 / 5:08 am

    it's scary that people don't know where food comes from or how to cook it. i think the proliferation of ready meals and take aways means that you if say you move out of home without learning how to cook from your mum or from school, well, you don't need to learn on your feet in order to survive – you can just buy it made for you. you can take the easy way. i read somewhere (online) the other day that someone said "cooking isn't a party, it's something you just have to do to feed yourself and your family everyday". i think too that 'everyday' quality has been lost because food shows and mags create this expectation that you've got to do something new and exciting at every meal. i pondered some of these things myself recently at

  7. October 29, 2012 / 5:23 am

    Lucy, I just love the simplicity, and the vibrant color and amazing delicious flavor of this chicken dish you created!

    As far as people not knowing how to cook; or don't cook, we have plenty of them here in S. Florida. They eat out just about every night, and as far as cooking at home…no clue whatsoever. If they don't eat out…it's 'takeout' Chinese, or pizza. I know a few people like that:)

  8. October 29, 2012 / 9:11 am

    Winner winner chicken dinner. Now that is my kind of meal – simple yet delicious. Thanks! I am far too often appalled at the food being fed to kids these days. Crappy food from a box to keep them happy while the parents eat the real food later on. When will they learn?!

  9. October 29, 2012 / 4:52 pm

    This is my kind of cooking! The thing is food doesn't have to be complicated but I think there's a whole industry which does very well out of people thinking they can't cook.

  10. October 29, 2012 / 9:51 pm

    I agree with Dominic too. In the UK, lots of schools cut cookery lessons, which meant that a there are two generations who don't know how to cook, eat or shop. Parents can't pass the skill to their kids because they don;t have it. I have spent the last 10 years teaching people I have worked with (in an office) how to cook because they haven't a clue. Keep up the good work – this dish is simply declicious!

  11. October 30, 2012 / 9:30 am

    It is a bit of a worry, I'm trying to get some kids cooking classes going over the Christmas break, it's important that the skills are passed on and with all the renewed enthusiasm for food it's a good time.

  12. October 31, 2012 / 8:31 am

    I work in a workplace with lots of twenty year olds, and most of them can't cook. It seems parents aren't keen on actually teaching their kids and getting them involved. We all grew up having to help our mums and take our turn in the kitchen, but that doesn't seem to be happening to a younger generation.

    Whenever I go to visit my family, I make my niece and nephew make one easy meal with me, to feed our family of six. Things like roast lamb, chicken wraps, mince and pasta. Things that they can modify and cook for everything else.

    Julie Q

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