I was mulling what to cook for dinner one evening, as I so often do, when I came across Brenda who was engrossed at her computer. “What are you looking at that’s so interesting?” I enquired, nosily. She clearly hadnt heard my approach as the flustered look and speed with which the lid was slammed down (not in time for me to miss a flash of nudity though) told me a quite different story to the “I might be considering Internet Dating” reply I received.
Now don’t be fooled – behind Brenda’s stately facade, ls the soul of an alley cat. She therefore requires younger friends, with the stamina to keep up with her needs. Since it had also been her birthday, and a landmark one at that (for which I had bought her nothing), I thought what better than to make it up to the old chicken-chaser than with the reward of a Hunter’s Chicken – or as it is more pleasingly rendered in the Italian, Chicken Cacciatore
8 chicken thighs – boned, but skin on
1 tbsp flour (heaped – around 15g)
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
80g pancetta lardons or smoked bacon lardons
4 fat cloves garlic, peeled and well chopped
2-3 sprigs rosemary – I left mine as sprigs with good results but nothing to stop you stripping the leaves and finely chopping them
200-250g preferably wild mushrooms – I should have had Glistening Ink Caps and Horns or Plenty seen it was for Brenda but I used a mix of Forestiere and large flat field mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms, chanterelles and morels are other common wild mushies.
Good splash of dry white wine (about 50-100ml)
1/2 litre chicken stock
2tbsp tomato puree
small handful of dried red chillis – mine were Kashmiri which are not very hot – as always, use your discretion
10g dried porcini mushrooms – but soak them a for a good couple of hours (or overnight) in about a scant cupful of water and KEEP the soaking liquid.
Handful of chopped parsley
Approx 25g roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
Served with lentils
1) Glug a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large casserole dish and set it over a high heat
2) Meanwhile, dredge your check thighs in the flour – plus season with salt and pepper.
3) When the chicken pieces are all coated and the pan hot, pop them in and fry for 6 -7 mins or however long yours take to go nice and golden.
4) Once this happens, set them aside, lose most of the oil (but keep any nice caramelised bits stuck to the bottom) and add the pancetta, rosemary, fry for s minute or two to give them a head start then the garlic which you don’t want to burn while the bacon and woody herbs turn darker and release their fragrances!
5).Now add the fresh mushrooms – chopped randomly depending on size but not too small – and the wine to cook and absorb for a few minutes – and follow that with the dried porcini and their soaking water.
6) Now switch the oven on to 180C (fan) and while that’s pre heating, return the chicken pieces to the pan, add the tomato paste to the stock, stir to combine, then pour the mix over the chicken dish, add the dried chillies and bring up to the simmer.
7) By this time the oven should be up to temperature so transfer the dish from the hob into the oven now, Check after half an hour but it’s meant to slightly “catch” on top – which could be reminiscent of pots of food being cooked with an open fire. It looks attractive and gives the dish that extra layer of taste – you’ll probably need another ten mins which is just time to pour yourself a drink, roast off the pistachios for 4-5 mins and chop the parsley – add a sprinkle of the latter two as a final garnish when serving and apply as many mouthfuls of the former as you feel like/are necessary.