Mmmm, what’s that flavour?

I recently watched the little doco about the guy who created London’s top ranking restaurant on TripAdvisor by Instagramming fake food and writing fake reviews. I started to wonder, does everything taste better when you casually throw on some micro herbs and edible flowers? Would vegemite on toast be enhanced with a showering of nasturtium leaves and some lime zest? I’m not one to put coriander on ANYTHING, so we can kiss that idea goodbye straight away, but how do you find what might make flavours go POW!?

Good old trial and error is fraught with the danger of wasting an entire dish. My advice is start slow and build up.

I once had a dream of growing herbs and spices on a commercial level. I even had a business name thought up, The Herbivore! Given that I can’t grow anything to save myself, it was a short-lived dream. I still love fresh herbs and spices though, I just rely on the gardening talents of others to provide them.

Just about all of the casseroles and soups I make start with celery, carrot and onion. Classic. You find this combination used in recipes from France to China. These three, plus a protein, cooked long and slow and you can’t go wrong. Add different herbs and you transform it.

Garlic, rosemary, thyme and chicken. Hello France.

Ginger, garlic, soy and chicken … Chinese braised chicken makes everyone in my house happy.

This is an adaptation of a recipe I learned from a friend many years ago. It’s been a good many years since she moved with her family to New Zealand, but I think of them when this goes in the pot. Given that Iona’s mum was from Scotland and her husband was from Poland, I really have no idea where this originated from.


2 sticks of celery
2 medium onions
2 carrots
4 large ripe tomatoes – chopped (or from a can if that’s what you have at hand)
20 or so cherry/grape tomatoes
Chicken. I’ve used whole but it works equally as well with Marylands or drummies, or even breast … so basically, chicken!
1 cup of white wine or stock (I used vegetable because I ran out of chicken)
1 bottle of passata

And 1/2 teaspoon of ground NUTMEG. If you’re using store-bought ground nutmeg you might want to up the quantity a little as it’s not as potent as fresh.

The Process

Chop the celery, carrots and onions to a similar size. Put them in the pot and sweat them off until softened, add garlic and chopped tomatoes.

Put your chicken in a roasting pan, surround with the vegetables. Pour over the passata and stock. Scatter the cherry/grape tomatoes and throw in a piece of rosemary and finally the nutmeg.

Cover and bake at 180 until cooked (I would say AT LEAST 20 minutes per 500g).

When the chicken is cooked, remove from the sauce and let it rest. You can then drain the juices and reduce then add the vegetables back before serving with mashed potatoes or rice.



Nikki Montgomery

Nikki Montgomery is a muffin baker, sandwich maker, chutney activist and painter of bespoke footwear. Nikki’s been called a lot of things over the years and worn a number of different hats. Between being 'just Mum' and trying to be an active community member, Nikki also has a keen interest in politics and social justice. What better way to get people to slow down and hear what others have to say than to gather together and share food? Now she can add ‘writer’ to her resume.