I don’t know when I started eating food on the go:
Was it hiking through Indian monsoon rains as a teenager with a pack that started out at 40lbs, carrying everything we needed for three days in the Himalayan foothills?
Or Mom’s baked bean casserole studded with ham or bacon, and laced with molasses, the hot ceramic dish covered with wax paper, and wrapped securely in a thick layer of newspaper, tied with string (“put your finger right there, Judy so I can make a knot.”) that was still steaming when we opened it at a table in a nearby park?
Or it could have been wintry picnics in Iran, the sky a crisp, cold blue, the sands a sparkling beige as we ate hot stew from a wide-neck flask?.
What I learned was that food is transportable and can widen the shared community delightfully.
Living in the UK is a blessing, because the number of Indian take-home meals makes our cupboard resplendent in use-able containers. Now, with so many plastic, foil, and cardboard dishes, it is easy to stock a non-cook’s freezer. We love visiting a friend who used to cook but finds it difficult to do so these days. Here is one of her favourites. My best USA friend gave it to me. It’s called Esther’s Casserole, but she assured me that it came from Coralee Manhave who got it from Elaine Cook who got it from…. Such is the way of community-shared recipes. In our house it will always be Esther’s. But if you adopt it, it might be named after YOU.
In a large frying pan, place 10 ozs of chicken breast, cut up. Cover with water, turn on the heat, and poach gently only until done. Drain.
In a casserole dish layer 10 ozs blanched broccoli (if using frozen, just thaw a bit). Top with a layer of chicken.
In a small bowl mix together 4 ozs (1/2 cup) mayonnaise with 1 can condensed cream of mushroom (or celery) soup. Stir in ½ tsp curry powder, and 1 tsp lemon juice. Pour over the chicken and broccoli. Toss 50 gms (1/2 cup) breadcrumbs in 2 tablespoons butter and ½ tsp paprika. Mix in 4 tablespoons grated cheese, and sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of the casserole. Sprinkle generously with slivered almonds, and bake in a moderate oven 35 – 45 minutes, or until bubbly.
- Prepare your casseroles in foil pans and freeze, ready to take to someone special.
- If you don’t have condensed soup, just whip up a cup of medium white sauce instead (3 tbs. butter, 3 tbs. flour, and 8 ozs milk).
Vegetarian option:. Use halved hard boiled eggs instead of the chicken. Has been well received in our house.