St Augustine Herb Chicken
Every month in her Cape Town kitchen, Grazia Barletta prepares a recipe inspired by the saints, and shares it with our readers in text and photos taken exclusively for The Southern Cross by the chef herself.
This month we remember a saint from Africa, and one of the most important people in the history of the Church. St Augustine of Hippo was born on November 13, 354, in the town of Thagaste, on the northern coast of what is now Algeria. North Africa was part of the Roman Empire, though it was considered a backwater.
Augustine’s mother, St Monica, was a devout Christian. His father, Patricius, was a decurio, a minor official of the empire. The position was far from glamorous, however, because a decurio was required to act as a patron for his community and to make up any shortfalls in taxes collected from the region. This may account for Augustine’s assertions that his family was poor.
Augustine showed early promise in school, and as a result his parents scrimped and saved to get their son an excellent Roman education, in the hope of ensuring him a prosperous career. Augustine later described himself as a dissolute young man, unrestrained by his father who was more concerned with his son’s academic success than his personal behaviour.
At the age of 16, Augustine was sent to the university at Carthage, the largest city in the region, where he set up a household with a concubine, the mother of his son. After he finished his studies, Augustine became a successful public speaker and teacher. He moved to Rome in 383, hoping to advance his career, and eventually became professor of rhetoric in Milan. There Augustine began to study Scriptures more deeply, inspired by the preaching of St Ambrose, the city’s holy bishop.
One day in a garden, Augustine had a powerful spiritual experience which is often referred to as his “conversion moment”. In his book Confessions, Augustine described it as a struggle between his old way of life and the new life he was seeking in Christ. He heard a child’s voice chanting “Tolle, lege” (which means “take up and read”), and he took this as a sign from God to open the Bible and read the first passage he saw. It was from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, which spoke to Augustine’s heart.
After his conversion, Augustine was baptised by St Ambrose (the baptismal font still exists in the crypt of Milan’s Duomo) and returned to North Africa, where he became a bishop and one of the most significant and influential theologians in history. His prolific writings on theology, philosophy, and the Christian life continue to be studied to this day.
You can double the ingredients, and leftovers taste even better.
Preparation: 50 min • Servings: 3
- 6 pieces of chicken legs or thighs (ideally free-range) • 200g rosa/ bella/cherry tomatoes • green or black pitted olives (as many as desired)
- 5 fresh basil leaves • 10ml dried oregano • 1 clove crushed garlic • 15ml olive oil • salt and pepper to taste
- Chop the tomatoes.
- Add oil to a large pot, let heat up. Then add the tomatoes, basil, garlic and oregano. Cook till reduced.
- Add in the chicken pieces and reduce the heat. Stir at regular intervals till the chicken is cooked through.
- Add salt and pepper, and finally the pitted olives.
- Serve and enjoy with a prayer to St Augustine!
Grazia Barletta is an author, book designer, and food photographer & stylist. She can be contacted at . Follow her blog at www.momentswithgrazia.com and connect with Grazia on Facebook/Instagram: momentswithgrazia
Published in the August 2023 issue of The Southern Cross magazine