Herby chicken casserole with winter veg and pearl barley


A couple of weeks back, we had the first fluttering of snow this year and temperatures  dropped to actually what it should be in January now… 0 degrees. Hurrah! Finally! 
 My woolies came out and winter is finally here! I do love winter. I do! I love the snow. Also, putting on those oversized coats that you always say you are going to fit into, snuggling in a huge knitted scarf and wearing a pom pom hat. But simply taking yourself out for a crisp, cold winter’s walk and trying to catch what birds and wildlife you can spot. How lovely?



Here is a photo I took on that Sunday of a beautiful wintery scene in Leicestershire:








We stopped at a lovely area we know where you can just sit and watch the birds feeding. We were thrilled to see a great spotted woodpecker, he was a grand little thing. Neither of us were quick enough to take a picture! We also saw a Jay which was beautiful with his flash of bright blue on him.



But thats just me, I love that. More to the point, the food that you can pair with all this winter bliss is wonderful.

   In this weather I crave for hearty stews and soups. Don’t we all surely? Dunking that crusty bread in there is food heaven. But do we all feel they are complicated to make? Or time consuming without a slow cooker? 
  Well, I thought I would show you a very simple way of doing a casserole. I did it after that winter outing but actually came up with the recipe last year and forgot to write about it! I also shared this recipe with my readers of my weekly column in the Leicester Mercury.

  Not all stews and casseroles take forever.  With this recipe it’s all in the prep, then into the oven and it does all the work for you, so you can sit back with a large glass of wine in front of the fire.

  This is simple, affordable food that will blow the cold socks off your friends and family. 
  I actually created another recipe from the last bits of veg and juice that were left so I will post that shortly too for you too.



Herby Chicken casserole with winter veg and pearl barley:




Ingredients:
–   1 tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • Chicken thighs (1-2 per person)
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery sliced
  • 2 carrots diced into chunks ( Veg all the same size )
  • 1 large parsnip diced into chunks
  • 1/4 Swede diced into chunks
 –   1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
  •   Chicken stock ( 1 gel pot ) to roughly 1 litre of water
  •   A tied mixture of herbs of Sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme and bayleaf 
  • salt and cracked black pepper to season
  • a good splash of dry white wine
  • a handful of pearl barley
  • 1 leek sliced
  • 3-4 chestnut mushrooms sliced
  • If you want to thicken the sauce slightly at the end, add in a tbsp of chicken gravy granules. 
Method:




  • Cook the pearl barley to packet instructions, drain and set aside to pop in later.
*  Preheat oven to 190c.
  • Fry off your Chicken thighs just to colour. Pop onto a plate aside. Then in the same fat, fry off your onion, carrots, parsnip, swede and celery for a couple of minutes just to coat.
  • Add your garlic into the casserole pot, stir and add the chicken back in with the  tomatoes, wine, stock and herbs. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on how many you are feeding for.
  • After 30-40 minutes check on the Casserole to see if veg is cooking well or may need a little water etc.
  • At this same point add in your leeks, mushrooms and pearl barley Pop back into the oven for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes if you would like your sauce thicker, add in 1 tbsp of chicken gravy granules.Pop back in the oven for 5  minutes.



* After this point, check if it needs seasoning and then you are ready to serve. I served mine with Mustard mashed potato by adding dijon mustard to how you would normally do your mash.

Seasonal Scrumptiousness

A Couple of weeks ago, Friday 13th of June to be precise, Ben Jackson at BBC Radio Leicester popped over to my house to do another Fab Food Friday recipe.
  My Kitchen Garden was an array of  fresh herbs and the start of seasonal vegetables, so what a lovely way to pop into the garden and see what we could salvage.
  I decided to do a dish that Families or anyone could get involved in the making of these little beauties. I chose to do Chicken Goujons but made them more exciting with the use of all the herbs that went in there. One in particular that I feel makes this recipe stand out is the lemon verbena. If you like growing herbs, please go and get some now as its fab! 

  I find it really hard sometimes when I hear families say they don’t have time to make these because in the same time I made them, it would take longer to open a frozen packet job  *cringes*  and cook them in the oven. Children AND Adults will love making these.
  This is a Great Dish for this time of year. Its Seasonal, Zingy, Vibrant and using up herbs and vegetables from the Garden. 
  Lots of Sport going on at the moment, So just the Goujons alone with that dressing and an Ice cold beer is great when having your mates round. This certainly has gone down a storm for my Friends and Family already. 

Just click on this link to hear Ben and myself preparing, cooking and more importantly EATING this recipe

Herby Chicken Goujons with Seasonal Salad and a Ranch Style dressing:


Here is a photo AFTER we dived in there!

Ingredients:

Chicken:

–  1 x 460g pack of Skinless Chicken Thigh Fillets
(6 Thighs will make approximately 20 Goujons)
–  2 slices of stale bread (I used Sourdough)
–  A Handful of a selection of fresh herbs;
         -Lemon Verbena
         -Lemon Thyme
         -Sage
         -Rosemary
         -Oregano
–  1 1/2 spring onion (only green parts)
–  Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper to season.
– 2-3 eggs whisked
–  3 Tbsp of Plain Flour
–  Tbsp of Rapeseed oil or any oil of your choice

Salad:

–  Jersey Royal Potatoes or New if you can’t get
–  Fresh fine British Asparagus (still in season now),Blanched and chopped into inch and a half pieces.
– A selection of Salad Leaves such (I used a “Living Salad”) Spinach, Watercress, curly etc would all work fine also.
–  A Handful of Fresh Broad Beans
–  A handful of fresh Radishes Sliced
–  Fresh Peas podded, could always use Frozen if need be
–  Edible flowers to decorate:
    – Borage
    – Sage
    – Rosemary

Ranch Style dressing:

–  2 Tbsp of Greek style Natural Yoghurt
–  2 Tbsp of Mayonnaise 
–  1 Tbsp of cider Vinegar or White wine vinegar
–  2 Tbsp of Finely grated parmesan cheese


Method:

–  Preheat your oven to 180-190c 
– Cook your Jersey Royal potatoes for about 15 mins
– Whilst they are cooking away, pop your herbs, bread, Spring Onions and seasoning into a Hand Blender or Processor and Blitz
–  Take 3 bowls, Place whisked eggs in 1, Flour in the other and your breadcrumb mixture in the 3rd.
–  Slice your chicken thighs into 3-4 pieces per thigh (long strips)
–  With one hand place the chicken into the flour, then egg, then Breadcrumbs. Repeat the process and put all onto a plate.
–  Heat up a frying Pan with a drizzle of your oil. Fry off the Goujons for a minute or 2 until starting to colour, then turn over and repeat.
–  Pop into the Oven on a baking tray for approximately 12 minutes
–  Drain off your Potatoes and Blanch your asparagus in boiling hot water for no more than 1 minute.
– Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process
–  Make up your dressing by mixing all ingredients together
–  Arrange your salad “rustically” with the added Peas, Broad beans and Radishes. Place the Goujons on top, drizzle with the dressing and decorate with the edible flowers! Done!