Chicken Casserole

I’m very gradually trying to entice my children into eating meals which consist of foods that are a little removed from their natural state. Touching, perhaps. Maybe even cooked. Heavens forfend, covered in a sauce. The Horror is the most resistant to this trend, so as he invited himself to spend the weekend with his grandparents I asked him what was his least favourite meal. “Pie”, he replied without hesitation. He likes the pastry, he just strongly objects to it having any contents. I couldn’t be bothered with a pie, so I thought I’d have a crack at a chicken casserole.

What started me off was a Stephanie Alexander recipe for wild rabbit pie, which would have adapted perfectly to being a casserole just by leaving out the pastry shell bit. But the Muffet objects to eating animals that are cute, that are babies, or that she’s met socially, so no bunnies for us. I moved on to chicken casserole recipes and there’s an amazing variety of them out there that I just wouldn’t bother with. Many involve the use of a Le Creuset casserole dish. I think if you didn’t score one of these babies as a wedding present you’ve missed the boat, there’s no way I’m spending that much on a casserole dish. Another large number involved either a litre of cream or half a bottle of wine, or both. So not them either. I ended up making this up.

Place in any old medium saucepan that you happen to find lying around in your kitchen cupboard a chunk of your delicious homemade butter. Add to it a chopped carrot,a chopped stick of celery, and some slices of my current favourite vegetable, fennel. Take five or six chicken thigh fillets, chop them into thirds and toss them in the pot. Most normal people would also add an onion, but I’ve rather gone off them lately. I would have stuck in half a leek, but I didn’t happen to have any. I was going to put in sliced mushrooms, but I forgot. Add a spot of salt and pepper and a couple of bay leaves and cook uncovered over a medium high heat, stirring whenever you smell burning. When the lot is looking browned, sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of corn flour and stir it it. Dump the lot into a casserole dish. Deglaze (ooh, fancy) the saucepan with half a cup of chicken stock and tip that into the casserole dish too. I happened to have some fresh thyme, so I arranged that over the top.

Stick it in a 180 degree oven with the lid on for about half an hour. Remove it and cover it with about half a cup of breadcrumbs, possibly made with a left over bread roll inserted into the Thermomix. Bake it uncovered for a further half an hour.

I told the kids that they could just pick out the chicken and eat that. Much to their surprise, they rather liked it. I even managed to cajole them into eating some of the cooked carrot. Progress! I think it will be some time before I can spring it on the Horror, though. I’ve yet to persuade him to try putting butter on his toast.