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Seedheads and blue skies

I am ever-so thankful for the beautiful sunny (if rather chilly!) autumn days we’ve had over the weekend and at the start of the week here in Cheshire – particularly so, because less than a week ago I was still soaking up the heat and basking under spotless blue skies in Greece.  I’ve got so many lovely things to share from our holiday but before that I wanted to just enjoy a few snaps of all that I love about an English autumn.

There are pumpkins at the farm shop, I can’t help but fall in love with all those shades of orange – I just wish the little punks in our neighbourhood wouldn’t see a pile of them by my front door as a good excuse for some street football. B*%!@^#s.

Pumpkins

This morning I made some chicken stock with a leftover roast chicken carcass, I am trying harder to find time to do this and it is so satisfying to have your own homemade stock.  The best I’ve made so far went solid like jelly, which is a sure sign of its tastiness.

Homemade chicken stock

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Chicken Stew

For lunch today we made Chicken Stew with Dumplings.  I say ‘American style’ because I found the recipe via Tasty Kitchen, which is an American-based recipe website, and because the dumplings aren’t like any I’ve made before.

The original recipe was more of a thick soup than a stew, but I have amended it slightly to make it into more of a stew than a soup.  For the original recipe see here.  For my version see below.

Chicken Stew

It must be said that on eating this dish it should be issued with a health warning.  This is incredibly rich, especially the dumplings.  It is tasty, but you can feel your heart slowing, your eyelids lowering, and a deep haze of sleep creeping over you. 

My advice would be to substitute most of the cream in the dumplings for water – I can’t imagine it would ruin them, but it would make the whole dish altogether more enjoyable.  For our tastes, this recipe is just a bit too much.

Maybe this recipe should be renamed Death by Dumplings…

Chicken Stew

Chicken Stew with Dumplings ‘American style’

Serves 3-4

The chicken stew
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces with skin left on (breasts, wings, leg and thighs)
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 litre of chicken stock
1-2 bay leaves
Couple of sprigs of thyme
1/4 tsp turmeric
Plain flour
Cornflour
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

The dumplings
200g plain flour
60g cornmeal or polenta
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
284ml double cream
Dash of water

First things first.  Season some plain flour with salt and pepper and dunk in each piece of chicken to coat.  In a large pan, fry the chicken pieces in hot oil until golden brown on both sides – start with skin side down first.  Remove to a plate.

Golden chicken

Add the chopped onion to the oil (ours got a little singed so we removed the burnt flour first and replaced some of the oil).  Cook for a minute or two until softened. 

Chopped onion

Add the chopped celery and carrot, the bay leaves, thyme, turmeric, and salt and pepper. 

Chopped Celery and Carrot

Cook for another couple of minutes.

Saute vegetables

Pour in the chicken stock and bring to the boil.  In a small dish mix a couple of teaspoons of cornflour with a little water and mix to get rid of any lumps.  Add this mixture into the pot and stir in. 

Chicken Stew

Next add the chicken pieces and turn the heat down to a simmer.  Cover with a lid and cook for about 15-20 minutes. 

At this point you can remove the chicken to a plate and turn up the heat to a boil to start to thicken your sauce.  Do this until it’s at the consistency you want.

Chicken Stew

In a separate bowl, mix together the ingredients for the dumplings – plain flour, polenta, baking powder and salt. 

Add the double cream and mix well.  You just want to mix the ingredients to a sticky dough – you can always add a splash of water if you need to loosen it a little.

Dumplings

Spoon the dumpling mixture into the stew and cover with a lid.  About 12 minutes should cook them – they will fluff up – in our case rather too much (see below for what ours looked like!). 

Fluffy dumplings

Take your serving plates and arrange a couple of pieces of chicken on each.  Spoon out a dumpling or two and finally a generous helping of the stew liquid.  Sprinkle over some parsley and eat. 

Chicken Stew

I feel like I need to go and sleep off this meal for the rest of the afternoon…

…zzz…

Chicken Stew

P1120652

Feeling that a cold might be creeping up on me gets me planning all the ways I can try to fight it off.  These ‘ways’ usually involve food.  We have been eating lots of garlic, onion, lemons, herbs, chicken stock, and drinking orange juice and hot honey and lemon.  If my throat gets stratchy and sore, I head for the cupboard, grab a teaspoon, scoop out a spoonful of ‘spring flower’ honey brought back from our travels in the Loire, and slowly suck on it.  It coats your throat and tastes delicious, plus I’m sure I’ve read that honey has antibacterial properties.  It certainly does the trick.

So when N woke up on Saturday morning with a sore throat too, it was essential to fill our bellies with something healing for lunch.  We opted for a firm favourite in our house, a pasta broth.  Its part soup, part broth, part bowl of pasta.  At its most basic you cook some teeny pasta in stock rather than water and add any combination of tiny diced vegetables.  Every time we make cook this dish it is slightly different, a different combination of vegetables, herbs and seasonings.

P1120654

This time we cracked open a tub of frozen homemade chicken stock, to ensure the best possible healing powers, no stock cubes today.  I used the vegetables that we had lying around in the fridge – a lonesome carrot that had got forgotten at the bottom of the salad draw, a small white onion, a chunk of celery, some sunblushed tomatoes, a few oyster mushrooms, and a bulb of fresh garlic. 

Firstly, I finely diced everything – except the mushrooms and sunblushed tomatoes, which were roughly chopped.  The onion, celery and fresh garlic were sweated in a little oil.  Next the carrot was added, stirred a little, then the mushrooms added.  The mini pasta was added (we used a small pasta shaped like rice) and stirred in, then the chicken stock added and the whole lot simmered. 

With a couple of minutes to go before the pasta is cooked, the sunblushed tomatoes are added.  I also added a sprinkle of dried herbs.  Once the pasta is cooked, I added a handful of chopped parsley and the juice of a lemon – the lemon juice just lifts the whole dish and transforms it – for me it wouldn’t be the same without it.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  You will find that most of the liquid gets absorbed by the pasta, so it’s more like a sloppy pasta dish.

P1120657

Serve it up with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and an extra grinding of black pepper if you’re me.  You could also add some grated Parmesan or a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves.  Bread or toast with a smear of butter is also a must to mop up any remaining broth.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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All pictures are my own unless stated. I would kindly ask that you don't use them elsewhere unless you ask permission first. Many thanks x

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