This is lovely with rice or crusty bread. I love it in winter. Feel free to add what ever vegetables you want to it – add roots early (when I add the potatoes) and green or softer veg that doesn’t take long towards the end. You can even use use some slightly wilted lettuce if you chop it up into chunks and fold it in at the end. I used smokey bacon as a base, but you could use chorizo or anything else like that that you happen to have or like.
I like to make a big batch of this with a view to giving some away, eating some and freezing some. It’s one of those dishes that takes a bit of time to make so it’s worth making extra, especially as it freezes so well.
6 rashers of good quality smoked streaky bacon, cut into 1cm strips
2 medium onions, roughly cut
12 chicken thighs, cube each thigh into 4 pieces (unless they are really big, then make 6 pieces from it). Stir in 2 tablespoons full of seasoned plain flour to your bowl of chicken pieces.
2 teaspoons of garlic paste, I use the jars of pre-mashed garlic from the Chinese supermarket.
300g carrots, cut into 1cm pieces
I used baby carrots which meant I didn’t have to peel them. I have no real problem with the use of fertilizers to help feed the world…. but organic carrots do seem to taste more of carrot than the other orange sticks you get in the supermarket!?
500g white mushrooms, pull the stems out (and use them) and quarter the rest.
So, a note on mushrooms – I wash them. Many Michelin Starred chefs insist that washing adds water to them and advocate just wiping the mud off. I guess, for a delicate fricassee of hand picked, exotic, wild mushrooms they are right. I’m going to fry them, then casserole them for about an hour… if they are bit wet to begin with I don’t care, as long as they are clean!
3 medium Desiree potatoes – cut up into quarters or smaller.
2 handfuls of frozen peas
salt & pepper to season
Add the bacon pieces to a dry casserole pot. Heat over a medium heat stirring occasionally, the idea is to gently render the fat out of the bacon, release all the lovely scent into the oil and have some delicious crispy bits in the final stew.
When the bacon is nice an crispy and the fat is mostly all rendered out, add the onions and fry for about 5-7minutes until they begin to just start to take on some colour.
Next add the mushrooms. Keep turning it over every few mins and the mushrooms which will have almost completely filled the pot initially, will reduce down to less than a quarter of their original volume. A lot of liquid will start to come out of the mushrooms. At this point add the carrots and the potatoes. Keep the heat low and allow it all to simmer – add a little water or chicken stock if it begins to dry out.
Place a heavy cast iron skillet or frying pan to heat and add some oil to the pan. When the skillet is hot, place the floured chicken into it and allow it to brown on one side before turning over. Remove the pieces directly to the casserole dish. They should be golden on both sides but still a bit raw in the middle when you put them in the casserole. Pan fry the chicken in batches so as not to over load the pan – causing it cool too much.
When all the chicken is cooked, deglaze the skillet with a glass of white wine. and stir all the bits into the liquid. Reduce the liquid down to a few tablespoons worth and tip it into the casserole as well.
Give the contents of the casserole a good stir and ensure that there is enough liquid to come to at least half way up the pot. Place the lid onto it and place into an oven set to 160ºc. Leave it alone for at least an hour and then check that the potatoes are tender and break easily.
You can add green veg at this point and turn the oven off but leave the dish inside it. The residual heat will continue to cook your veg hopefully leaving them with a little bite still in them.