It was a very strange Easter for everyone this year. Normally the long weekend is the perfect chance to visit my family and catch up with friends in Cornwall but as we are currently in lockdown I had to make do with just the company of Chris, at home in Cardiff. We set up a mini Easter egg hunt for each other in the house, had eggs on toast for breakfast and joined our church for their online Easter Sunday service.
One of my favourite things about going back to Cornwall to see my family is (other than the fantastic company, obviously) the 10/10 roast dinner for Sunday lunch. One of my favourite food memories from my childhood is getting back from church on a Sunday and coming through the door to the smell of the roast lamb cooking in the oven. Mmmmmm.
However, since it was just the two of us this year and making a roast for two people is more effort than we were prepared for, we decided to make my absolute favourite cassarole – a Nigella inspired variation on a Chicken Cacciatore. We don’t have this very often as it uses quite a bit of meat so it is definetely a special occassion meal for me. What better way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus than chicken *and* bacon?!
My mum makes this meal fairly regularly, originally from Nigella’s recipe for it and then from memory with alterations here and there and I make it now too with my own alterations. The basis remains the same – chicken stew with bacon, cooked in a tomato sauce flavoured with white wine and bay leaves. It might sound pretty standard but the flavours are next level.
Serves 6, alongside rice.
3tbsp olive oil
500g chicken thighs
6 rashers of smoked bacon
1 large white onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tin of chickpeas
800g chopped tomatoes (2 x 400g tins)
2 red peppers (or 1 courgette)
1 small jar of black olives (180g)
200ml white wine
1 chicken stock cube
5 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Start by chopping the onion and putting it in a large casarole dish with plenty of olive oil. Put on a medium heat and add some chopped chicken thighs – to save getting chicken on a chopping board, we just used some kitchen scissors to chop the chicken up straight into the pan. Cook for a few minutes and then chop in the bacon rashers into lardons and add to the pan. Cook until chicken and bacon both appear cooked (the chicken needs to be sealed but will continue cooking when the liquid is added). Chop the peppers into chunks and add to the pan. (In our case, the supermarket were out of peppers so we ended up using a courgette instead.) Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan. If the ingredients start sticking to the pan, you can add more oil or a splash of water.
Next pour in the wine and contiue to stir so the juices on the bottom of the pan combine with the wine so begin to form the sauce. Crumble in the stock cube and stir thoroughly until dissolved. Drain and since the chickpeas and add to the pan along with the chopped tomatoes, olives, bay leaves and sugar. Cook for a few minutes whilst stirring and then turn onto a low heat and put the lid on.
Leave this to cook for around 20 minutes, stirring every now and again to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Leaving it to cook for a long time is one of the things that makes this dish so good as the delicious flavours infuse and the chopped tomatoes develop into a rich sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve on top of a good helping of rice with a cold beer or the rest of the bottle of wine! Bon appetite.