Bury reporter, Pauline Smith, shares her recipe for Chicken Casserole a la Covid
As the autumn mists appear and the leaves start to fall off the trees its time to start cooking those warm and hearty dishes that make you appreciate this time of the year, even if you are already missing those hazy lazy days of summer.
For me one of the key things about cooking during lockdown is to make a dish that allows flexibility with both ingredients and cooking times. Casseroles offer that although I cooked this particular dish in one of my old and trusty woks on top of the stove. And clearly I made more than one person can eat at a single sitting, as you can see from the photo of the cooked dish; as with any kind of batch cooking the majority of this dish can be put into plastic boxes and then into the freezer or the fridge for later. Not forgetting that if casseroles marinate for 24 hours the flavours blend better when it’s warmed through and eaten the day after, or even later.
List of Ingredients
This version has a long list of ingredients and offers some alternatives to those I used and would serve 4 people as a main course.
- One large white onion; you could use a red onion or two smaller ones
- Two peppers – one red and one orange; you could use other colours. I used a red pointed big pepper and one large orange pepper.
- Four large cloves of garlic; they do add depth of flavour if you don’t finely chop them and are then not as strong but rather they add a softer taste.
- Herbs – I used dried mixed herbs which I buy from the Middle Eastern section in one of my local supermarkets, the nearest I can get to herbes de provence. Often they are in a plastic bag and I decant the herbs into a container that is dark so they stay fresher longer. Obviously if you grow your own herbs then use a selection of fresh herbs – include tarragon and rosemary if you have them. Its about using what you have.
- 4 chicken thighs; you could use chicken breasts though I think that the thighs are better in a dish like this as they have more flavour….or you could use 6 or 8 drumsticks.
- This time I used a large chunk of chorizo sausage I had in the fridge which was still unopened. This is purely optional and you could miss it out altogether or use 4 good quality pork sausages.
- Tin of butter beans – if you don’t have these then use some other beans, like cannellini or white kidney beans or even chickpeas. Don’t use baked beans as they have too much sugar in them, and my guess is they will change the taste of this dish.
- Tin of cherry tomatoes, you could use fresh but most supermarkets sell the tinned version now and they are probably cheaper than fresh ones and they are better for this dish.
- Tin of plum tomatoes, you could use chopped I prefer them whole and sliced into larger chunks.
- Olives – I used black ones and added maybe 10-12; if you don’t like them just skip and if you do like them use whichever you prefer of green and/or black olives.
- Oil – I prefer olive oil or rapeseed oil and would suggest using a good quality as it adds to the flavours.
- Potatoes – as many as you are cooking for as they will be mashed and then the cheese grated in. I just used one large one as it was just me.
- Cheese grated to have in the mash – preferably a strong cheddar, if you don’t have any or don’t want to add it then ordinary mash is fine
- Salt and pepper.
Cooking of the ingredients.
I find it easier to cook the ingredients for a dish like this in batches rather than jumble everything in the pan and hope it works out well. It will mean more washing up of plates as well as the knife you use, but in my view it works better.
- Peel and then chop and slice the onion into chunks. Halve the peppers and de seed them and then chop into largish pieces.
- Pour some oil into your pan or wok and get it warm (not too hot) so that the onion and peppers do not char, you just want them cooked through.
- Whilst they are cooking peel the garlic cloves (choose large ones) and cut each one into 2 maximum 3 pieces.
- When onion and peppers are staring to cook add the garlic pieces.
- When they are all soft and partially cooked remove onto a plate retaining the oil in the pan or wok.
- Add the 4 chicken thighs (or whatever else you use) and brown gently until cooked a good way through. Then lift out and put on same plate as cooked vegetables.
- Having chopped the chorizo into chunks (or the pork sausages) add them to the warm cooking oil and cook till they start to brown and the cooking oil has imbued the flavour of the chorizo.
- Add back into the pan or wok the chicken thighs and the vegetables and warm through, then add the tin of cherry tomatoes and the tin of plum tomatoes
- Drain the butter beans and wash thoroughly using a sieve and then add to the pan/wok.
- You will need to add some liquid so top up one of the tins of tomatoes and then pour between the 2 tins to get the remainder of the tomato juice and add to the pan. If you feel you need more liquid then add it.
- Add the dried herbs – a couple of spoonfuls or large pinches and some salt and freshly ground pepper. I use sea salt but you can use whatever you want
- Make sure everything is nicely stirred and mixed and then add the olives sprinkling them around the top of the dish. And then put the lid on the pan/work and allow to simmer for about one and half hours. Any longer and nothing will really go wrong. Check periodically to give it a stir and add liquid if needed.
- When you figure its about ready then peel and chop some potatoes and boil in salted water. When cooked drain away most of the water and then mash with butter (and/ or cream or milk if you prefer) and grate some cheese and add that to the mash.
- I chopped some fresh parsley and sprinkled that on the dish and enjoyed a glass of chilled rose with my meal.