Thursday, 14 May 2009
The First Stew Of The Season
This chicken, cannellini beans and leek stew from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater is my favourite cold-days comfort food to make (and the boyfriend says it's his favourite to eat).
The balsamic vinegar is the star here - it subtly cuts through everything in this simple pot of slow-cooked goodness and takes it to a whole new height. The tasty juices, allowed to seep and mix into the creamy buttery mash, is PHWOAR!
The recipe, in Nigel's words:
~ 150g dried cannellini beans
~ 1 large chicken, jointed
~ 50ml olive oil (plus more for frying)
~ 50ml balsamic vinegar
~ 4 plump cloves of garlic, peeled
~ 3 or 4 bay leaves
~ 1-2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence
~ pared rind of a small orange
~ 3 medium leeks, thickly sliced
~ mash, to serve
Soak the beans in cold water for three or fours hours, though overnight will not hurt (the older your beans, the longer they will need). Bring them to the boil in unsalted water and boil them for forty minutes.
Put the chicken joints in a glass, china or steel dish. Pour over the olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar, then tuck in the peeled garlic cloves and the bay leaves. Scatter over the herbs de Provence, a good grinding of pepper and salt and the strips of pared orange. Leave in a cool place, overnight if possible or at least for four to five hours.
Set the oven at 200°C. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a shallow pan (don't be tempted to fry the chicken in the oil from te marinade; it will spit and pop because of the vinegar). Add the chicken pieces, shaking the marinade from each as you go, and let them fry till they are golden brown on each side. You may find it easier to do this in two batches. Transfer the browned meat to a deep casserole - one for which you have a lid. Drain the boiled beans and add them to the pot.
In the same oil, fry the leeks over a low heat, so that they soften rather than colour. Allowing a leek to brown will send it bitter. Now add the garlic from the marinade, then pour in the remaining marinade, the rest of the balsamic vinegar and about a litre of water. Don't be tempted to use stock instead; it will make the dish too rich. Bring to the boil, season generously with salt, then pour this mixture over the chicken. Tuck in the bay leaves and orange from the marinade, then cover the casserole and put in the preheated oven for two hours. Halfway through cooking, check that the chicken is still submerged. Check for seasoning: it may need salt, it will need black pepper and you may feel it needs a little more balsamic vinegar.
Serve steaming hot, with mash, letting the thick juice from the stew form pools in the mash.
This is the one I made on Tuesday night.