Roman chicken

September 12, 2021

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Roman chicken

The science of eating well: exotic, healthy, quick and delicious recipes.

In my youth and into my twenties I was a passionate student of ancient history. I never got to Greece or Egypt, but I enthusiastically explored Roman remains in France, Italy and the UK. I produced a TV special for the BBC about building a Roman villa and adapting it to our modern lifestyle.

Unfortunately, I became more socially aware as I grew older and came to see how really terrible the ancient empires were to ordinary people—they all had slaves for example. Their rulers made the likes of Putin and DT seem tame by comparison. In fact, they got to a point—all of them—where the level of inequality was such that they collapsed. The rotten core of the Roman empire succumbed when social inequality meant that there was nothing worthwhile left to defend.

So why today’s recipe? Well, it has nothing to do with ancient Rome, but is popular in modern Italy. The Romans didn’t know of capsicums or tomatoes—both of which came to Europe much later from South America. Chickens were on the Roman menu. However, chickens were also regarded as sacred by the priests and were used for making auguries. Nothing significant was undertaken in the Senate or in the armies, without omens being drawn from the sacred chickens (who were killed and dissected).

The Romans used garlic as a drink, a medicine and as part of a meal rather than as a flavoring. It is today regarded as one of the prime superfoods. I use it in almost all my recipes. Capsicums and tomatoes are both also great health foods. As you probably have noticed I use both a lot.

Both celery and mushrooms are considered by some to be superfoods. Alicia is not a celery fan, so I substituted mushrooms for her. She loves cooked mushrooms.

This recipe can be made with firm tofu and tastes just as good—follow the same directions but cook the tofu a bit less.


  • 500 gms (1/2 lb) skinned chicken breast
  • 1 large red capsicum, washed, seeded and cut into 1cm-thick slices
  • 1 large yellow capsicum, washed, seeded and cut into 1cm-thick slices
  • 4 medium tomatoes, washed and quartered
  • 200 ml tomato passata (puree)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 celery heart, sliced thinly or 200 gms sliced mushrooms
  • 1 bay leaf (or 2/3 tsp of thyme)
  • A few pinches chopped parsley
  • 50 gms (2 oz) wholemeal (whole grain) flour
  • 300 ml (10 fluid oz) dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Ground pepper


  1. Divide the chicken into 5 equal pieces.  
  2. Coat chicken pieces with flour  
  3. Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pan. Fry the chicken in the oil until well-browned on both sides. Remove and place on kitchen paper to drain.
  4. Fry the onion, garlic, celery heart and/or mushrooms and capsicum on medium high heat, stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add wine and keep cooking until all liquid has evaporated.
  6. Add tomatoes, passata and bay leaf. Stir and keep cooking for 5 minutes.
  7. Add chicken pieces and turn down to a simmer. Add a few turns of pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes then turn the chicken pieces. If the liquid reduces too much, add water or a bit more wine.
  8. Once cooked, sprinkle the parsley.

Serves: 5

Energy: 932 kJs (233 calories)

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

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