I am in Cumbria this week staying with my mother-in-law and taking the opportunity to sample some of the lovely fresh produce around here. Unfortunately, the weather has been a bit miserable; raining and windy with some thunder storms so I fancied something hot and comforting for dinner the other evening. This is a lovely dish which makes use of summer fennel and is great served with simple rice. Have a go and make double the recipe to freeze so that you have a handy meal if ime is not on your side.
Chicken & Fennel Casserole
Good pinch of saffron strands
Vegetable oil for frying
4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
3 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic gloves, finely chopped
1 bulb fennel, sliced
Large handful of green beans, trimmed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed (mortar + pestle)
200ml dry white wine
300ml chicken stock, hot
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
2 bay leaves
Roux (melt some butter, add the same quantity of flour and cook for 3-4 mins)
2 tablespoon crème fraiche
2 tablespoon chopped parsley, to serve
Preheat oven to 180*C, Fan 160*c or gas mark 4
1.Put the saffron into a bowl, cover with 1 tablespoon of hot water and leave to soak.
2.Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large flameproof casserole.
3.Fry the chicken in batches over a high heat until lightly browned (a minute or two), adding another tablespoon of oil with each batch.
4.Remove to a bowl and set aside.
5.Add another tablespoon of oil and add the bacon and fry for a few minutes until crispy, remove and set aside with the chicken.
6.Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, turn heat to medium.
7.Add the onions, garlic and crushed fennel seeds, thyme and bay leaves and fry for 5 minutes until lightly browned.
8.Add the wine and let it bubble for a few seconds to deglaze the pan, then add the stock and saffron water.
9.Return the chicken and onions to the casserole, cover and bring to a simmer.
10.Place in the preheated oven for 20 mins.
11.Stir in the fennel slices and green beans and return to the oven for another 10-15 mins
12.Lift the vegetables and chicken out of the liquid and put aside
13. Bring the cooking liquor back to a simmer and whisk in the roux, a little at a time (you might not need to use it all), until the sauce has thickened.
14. Simmer for a further 2-3 minutes. Stir in the crème fraiche and herbs.
15.Adjust the seasoning. Pour the sauce back over the chicken and serve.