Wednesday, 5 September 2012

"Not Chicken AGAIN, Mum..... "

Do you ever look in the fridge come dinner time and think, "oh no, not chicken breasts again?" It's a familiar feeling here. I don't like to cook red meat on week nights really (think of the cholesterol levels!) and although I love fish, it does require a certain amount of effort to have in and to think about what to do with whatever might be available. So chicken features often in our house, as I'm sure it does in most. 

We all have a repetoire of the few dishes that we rotate on a regular basis, but boy oh boy - they get boring sometimes! And while the internet is a great source of inspiration (I've mentioned the Delia Smith website before, and the BBC Food site is great) but it's so handy to get a recommendation of a quick and easy recipe from a friend (and I'd like to think we qualify in that category by now). 

So here's something different for you to try - it's sort of a variation on the "coronation chicken" theme, in that the sauce is mildly curried. It's actually the first savoury dish I ever cooked, precipitated by a panicked call from my mother who had spent longer having a coffee with a friend one afternoon than planned and was now late for putting the dinner on! It went on to become a staple dish of mine, becoming (in another first) my first ever "dinner party dish" - a bit of a high falutin' term, considering it was little more than a few friends / colleagues from my first ever job, eating at my kitchen table in my rented flat in Galway. But it was a success, and still is today. It's evolved a lot over the years, form the original "can of Campbell's mushroom soup and spoon of curry powder stirred over some chicken breasts" to the current recipe. As a result, it's a very "a-bit-of-this, a-bit-of-that" which is not the way I usually work (the baker in me likes precise instructions!) but give it a go, you won't be disappointed it.

Chicken and Mushroom in a mildly spiced sauce

·         4 Chicken breasts – either on or off the bone
·         Punnet of mushrooms – ideally breakfast / Portobello large mushrooms, sliced
·         A spoon of mayonnaise
·         A tub of crème fraiche (of course cream would work perfectly here too!)
·         A few teaspoons of curry powder
·         Grated cheese, maybe some breadcrumbs and melted butter too (if pushing the boat out)
Pre-heat the oven to180°C
1.       If using chicken fillets, there is no need to fry them first, but if you are using part-boned breasts, then it is a good idea to brown them first in a hot pan, then arrange in an ovenproof dish
2.       Pan fry off the sliced mushrooms (much easier to do in a non-stick pan, you use much less oil, as otherwise the mushrooms suck it all up)
3.       This is the imprecise bit – add a large spoon or two of mayo to the mushrooms, mix it in and then crème fraiche – it’s hard to say how much, it depends, but you don’t want the chicken to be swimming / drowning in sauce
4.       Stir well and then add a few teaspoons of curry powder, to taste. Ideally not too much, it’s just meant to be mildly spiced. It depends also on whether you have mild or hot curry powder… I normally use 2 or 3 teaspoons of medium curry powder.
5.       Pour the sauce over the chicken, top with cheese and breadcrumbs, and pop in the oven for about 20 – 30 mins (again, longer if using more meat, or if the breasts are on the bone – if with bone, then I’d leave it for the cheese and crumbs til 40 mins). If there is a lot of chicken and you’re leaving it for 40 mins, I’d probably not add half way through, or later (don’t want them to burn)
6.       I usually serve with pasta and mango chutney and green veg, although potatoes or rice would work equally well

It was the perfect recipe for tonight - we've had a lot of "grilled chicken and salad" over the summer, and I'm totally browned off with it, so inspiration hit me in the supermarket this evening that this would be something delicious. I should, of course, have some sort of green veg to serve it with, but unfortunately when I got home I discovered that the veg I had were curled beyond redemption, so we went without.

PS - in other great "chicken" news, my sister-in-law tells me that the excellent Cork based curry spice company Green Saffron have started to do a stir-in sauce range. Literally, she poured the jar of jalfrezi sauce over the chicken and produced a curry as any I got in of my favourite haunts in London. Definitely one for the store cupboard. 

I really have to dash now - I have to get this eaten before I go out to the first school parent's association meeting of the new school year.

Sarah xx

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