Friday, March 13, 2009

Chicken Casserole with Butter Bean Mash

This well flavoured casserole is reminiscent of the kind of delicious comfort food my mother used to make when I was a child. It has a lovely flavour that really makes the chicken shine but you do need good quality chicken on the bone. Lots of butchers have special deals on thighs and drumsticks and this is a great way to make use of such a bargain. Sweet smoked paprika is available from speciality food shops and Brindisa at Borough.

Chicken & spinach casserole with creamy butter bean mash
Serves 4

Preparation time less than 30 minutes
Cooking time less than one hour


8 chicken pieces (thighs and/or drumsticks)
2 tbsp plain flour mixed in a plastic bag with 1 tspn of smoked sweet paprika and salt and pepper for dredging the chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
100g/4oz unsmoked bacon, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small batons
2 ribs celery, washed and thinly sliced
1 onion, roughly chopped
600ml/1 pint chicken stock or water
450g/1lb spinach, washed, stalks removed and discarded
1 tbsp potato flour dissolved with 1 tsp cold water
For the butter bean mash
500g/ 1lb dried butter beans, soaked overnight
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin


1. Dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour until well coated. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over a moderate heat. Cook the chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, in the hot oil for 3 or 4 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden. Remove the chicken to a plate.

2. Discard any remaining oil from the pan. Over a low heat, cook the bacon till the fat starts to rend, about 4 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and onions, stirring to coat them in the bacon fat, and cook until the onion is translucent.

3. Add 2-3 tbsp of the stock or water to the pan and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining stock/water to the pan.

4. Return the chicken to the pan along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear when the flesh is pierced with a knife.

5. Wilt the spinach in a separate hot pan with just the water that remains from washing it, then drain and chop roughly.

6. When the chicken is cooked and the juices run clear when pierced with a skewer, stir in the chopped spinach and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Check the seasoning.

7. Meanwhile, for the butter bean mash, drain the soaking butter beans and put them into a clean pan with unsalted water. Bring it to the boil, skim any scum from the surface then simmer for 15 minutes. Now add about a tablespoon of salt - salt added any earlier will toughen the beans and they will never soften. Continue to cook for another 15 minutes until the beans are tender.

8. Drain the butter beans, return them to the saucepan, add the olive oil and cumin and whizz with a stick blender till smooth.

9. Gradually add the potato flour/water mix to the casserole over a medium heat, stirring until the sauce thickens slightly and becomes glossy.

10. To serve, divide the butter bean mash equally among four deep bowls and ladle the chicken and sauce generously over the top.

This is easy enough to prepare for a midweek supper and you could cook it and then reheat next day, just adding the spinach at the end for a quick dinner. It's really good at this time of year when the days are a little warmer but there's no guarantee the nights will be the same.

It works out to a very reasonable £2 per serving.

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