This chicken casserole makes a great family dinner whatever the season. In winter you can top it with the cheesy dumplings, making it into a real comfort food classic. In summer you can add in seasonal veggies like Tenderstem broccoli, and leave the dumplings out. Serve it instead with some minted new season potatoes like Jersey Royals. This recipe was created by Rachel Allen, and Irish cookery writer with a talent for family friendly meals. This recipe takes two hours but it's simple to create and worth the time.
- 1 chicken (1.8kg/4lb)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 350g (12oz) unsliced rindless streaky bacon, cut into 1-2cm (½in) chunks
- 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm (1in) slices on the diagonal
- 700ml (1¼pt) chicken or vegetable stock
- Few sprigs of thyme
For the cheesy herb dumplings:
- 350g (12oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 300ml (½pt) buttermilk or soured milk
- 2 tbsp finely chopped mixed herbs, such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon or chives
- 25g (1oz) Cheddar cheese, finely grated
- To make this chicken casserole, preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4. Remove the breasts from the chicken and cut them in half. Remove the leg portions and divide them into thighs and drumsticks. This will give eight chicken pieces in total. Season them well with salt and pepper.
- Pour the olive oil into a large casserole dish on a high heat, add the bacon and fry quickly for 1-2 mins or until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Add the chicken in batches and sear on each side until golden, then remove. Add the onion and carrots and fry for 2-3 mins or until golden.
- Return the bacon and chicken to the dish, pour on the stock, add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Bring slowly to the boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid and bake in the oven for 20 mins.
- In the meantime, prepare the dumplings. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl, add the herbs, mix, then make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the buttermilk or soured milk (leaving about 50ml/2fl oz in the measuring jug). Using one hand with your fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together, adding a little more buttermilk if necessary. Don’t knead the mixture or it will become too heavy. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky.
- Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and bring together, forming it into a round. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 2cm (1in) thick. With the scone cutter stamp out 10-12 dumplings, or divide the dough into 10-12 pieces and roll each one between your hands into a small ball.
- Remove the casserole dish from the oven and turn the heat up to 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8. Arrange the dumplings on top, leaving a slight gap between them to allow for spreading. Scatter with the cheese. Return to the oven, uncovered, for 10 mins, then reduce the heat to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6, and cook for a further 20 mins until the dumplings are crisp and golden and the chicken is cooked through.
Top tip for making Rachel Allen's chicken casserole
If you prefer your dumplings soft and fluffy, rather than with a golden crust, keep the lid on all the time they are in the oven.
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Rachel Allen's first television series, called Rachel’s Favourite Food, was broadcast in 2004 throughout Ireland, Canada, Australia, and Europe. A book of the same name accompanied the series, giving viewers a true insight into Rachel’s special brand of family-orientated cooking and recipes. Since then she has authored more than eight different cookery books, which have sold more than 1 million copies worldwide. You may have also seen Rachel's name in the Irish Magazine or The Sunday Tribune or on BBC's Saturday Kitchen or on her own popular cooking show on Ireland's RTE network. From simple one-pot meals and roast dinners to your favourite sweet treats, we’ve got all of the best Rachel Allen recipes to choose from for perfect family meals.
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