Monday, 4 March 2013

A Tasty Casserole - Chicken & Chickpeas

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How do you measure the success of a cookbook? As the wife of a chef with a keen interest in baking (what do you mean, you hadn't noticed?!) I am often given cookbooks as a present; often ones that I wouldn't have bought myself. My mother-in-law got me Tana Ramsay's "Real Family Food" one Christmas, I presume because Himself rates her husband Gordon so much. Now, there is no way I'd ever have bought this as I reckon it's just cashing in on her husband's name - but, I have to say, I like the recipes. One in particular I use a lot, and I think that this is the measure of a successful recipe book... If there is even one recipe in the book that interests you enough to try once and turns out to be so good that you return and make it time after time - that was a worthwhile purchase and the book has been a success.

So here's a family favourite in our house, Tana's "Chicken and Chickpeas", vaguely Morroccan-ish with a bit of Italian thrown in for good measure. A really tasty "laid back supper", as suggested by the author, but also good enough to serve at an informal dinner with friends around the kitchen table (my favourite kind of dinner party - kids asleep upstairs, so no babysitter fees, plenty of wine and good chat). It's also pretty easy; dice an onion, fry off some chicken pieces and then the onion, bung in chickpeas, tomatoes and a few other bits and sling it all in the oven for an hour and Bob's your uncle.


Chicken & Chickpeas


Serves 4 (even if just making this for the two of us, I would make this amount of sauce anyhow as I like a saucy dinner, although I might cut down the amount of chicken. This scales up very easily though)

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 chicken legs (I usually use 4 chicken breasts on the bone, or the leg joints, "the oyster cut"… leave the skin on)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (if just for two, I'd only use one onion)
  • 200ml / 7fl oz red wine
  • 400g / 14oz tinned tomatoes (1 tin)
  • 300ml / 11fl oz chicken stock or boiled water with a chicken stock cube dissolved (I use the latter option)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 400g / 14 oz tin chickpeas
  • Large bunch basil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 head of garlic, broken into cloves with the skin left on
  • Preheat the oven to 180ÂșC

2.    On the hob, heat the oil in a casserole / large saucepan until it shimmers.  Add the chicken and brown on all sides, then remove and put to one side.

3.    Turn the heat down and add the chopped onions. Stir well to make sure the onions absorb all the chicken sediment at the bottom of the pan.

4.    When the onions are soft and have just started to colour, add the red wine and turn up the heat.  The wine will bubble and spit, so be careful (this doesn't actually happen when I do it as my big saucepan is non-stick).  Keep boiling until virtually all the wine has evaporated and the onions are stained red.

5.    Add the tinned tomatoes, stock, balsamic vinegar and chickpeas.  Rip up half the basil leaves and throw into the casserole.  Season with plenty of salt and pepper, stir well and bring to the boil.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and carefully arrange the drumsticks on top of the tomatoes and chickpeas.

6.    Sprinkle the whole garlic cloves over the top (I usually don’t use the whole head of garlic when it’s just for the two of us, I just use the smaller cloves from the bulb – but I do use lots of them).  Cover the casserole dish with the lid and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes.

7.    Sprinkle the remaining torn basil leaves over the chicken pieces, check the seasoning and serve immediately.

8.    Serving suggestion is a loaf of crusty fresh bread and a crisp green salad – personally, I prefer floury potatoes as there is a lot of sauce and it’s lovely to let the spud soak it up a little. I'm sure it would work equally well with your carb of choice though; be that pasta, rice or cous cous - I think cous cous would work very well, actually, although do make sure to soak it in chicken stock rather than just plain boiling water, it gives much better flavour.

Enjoy!
Sarah xx

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