Nona’s Chicken Sofrito

Serves 6

Prep time: 10 mins | Cooking time: approx 3 hours

A beautiful, strong, confident Egyptian woman, my Nona, Esther, was also the best cook I ever knew. She was the hostess of feasts and family gatherings, and everyone agreed she was simply the finest cook in the family. Coming from a family of foodies, several of whom cooked professionally, that was quite high praise! My Nona used to spend hours in the kitchen, meticulously crafting delicate pastries, chopping vegetables as finely as humanly possible and whipping up the most sumptuous meals for family and friends.

Nona would make this traditional Sephardi chicken and potato stew every Pesach. As children, my siblings, my cousins and I would ask for it at every opportunity, but being a meal that takes some hours to make and rarely lasted more than a handful of minutes before being utterly devoured, she’d usually reserve it for special occasions or for Shabbat and Yom Tov.

The method consists of sautéing and braising a whole chicken, then adding in deep fried potatoes which absorb the chicken juices, turn almost gooey, and pack a flavour punch. My sisters and I would crave and fight over the potatoes, and as adults we all fight over which of us makes it best. The recipe, being an old family recipe that was made largely by intuition, doesn’t really call for precise measurements, and what is below is essentially what was passed down through our family. Notes such as “halfway up the chicken” may be subjective, as they were based on Nona’s old cast-iron red casserole. When I purchased my own pot, it also had to be red, for sentimental reasons, but mine is cast aluminium and holds 5.5 litres.

What has remained, besides the food memory and Nona’s old red casserole (now in my sister’s possession), is that Sofrito is still a staple of our family at Pesach, and each of us has made this meal for Seder Night in our own homes, grounding us in memories of Seder Nights past, and drawing a line back through generations.


  • 1.5kg (3lb) starchy Potatoes
  • 1 large Chicken
  • 3 sticks of Celery, peeled and cut into 8cm (3in) strips
  • 3 cloves of Garlic, sliced
  • ½ tsp Turmeric
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt & Pepper


  1. Cut the wings off the chicken, leaving the rest of the bird whole. 
  2. In a large, stove-to-oven casserole pan (big enough to eventually hold the chicken & potatoes), heat the olive oil on the stovetop over a medium heat.
  3. Add the turmeric, celery & sliced garlic.
  4. Cook slowly, stirring regularly so the garlic doesn’t burn.
  5. After 2 minutes, add the chicken & cook on one side to brown.
  6. Turn the chicken over & let that side brown, too, then add the wings.
  7. Cover the chicken with water so it comes about halfway up the chicken.
  8. Put a lid on & cook until chicken is very tender and no pink remains, around 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken. Turn occasionally and add more water as needed.
  9. While the chicken is cooking, peel the potatoes & cut into about 2cm (1in) cubes.
  10. Deep fry or air fry these potato cubes in batches until golden brown & leave to get cold.
  11. Once the chicken is cooked, leave to get cold, then cut into pieces & return to the pan.
  12. Add the cooked potatoes to the casserole. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon.
  13. For best results, refrigerate overnight at this point, or leave for at least several hours.
  14. Before serving, heat through thoroughly in the oven for 30-45 minutes. The potatoes should have absorbed the majority of the stock juices and turned into gooey, soft, flavourful morsels of happiness!
  15. Remaining stock and celery can be reserved and served over rice.

Can be prepared in advance and reheated.

Chicken Sofrito