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Recipes: Chicken stuffed with spinach and Parmesan with saffron sauce | Chicken thighs baked with olives and artichokes| Chicken thighs with roasted mushrooms and sherry cream sauce

STUFFED CHICKEN WITH SAFFRON SAUCE.

STUFFED CHICKEN WITH SAFFRON SAUCE.

Some advance planning will everyone, host included to enjoy these Sunday feasts

Easter Day, the most important day in the year for Christians. Religious celebrations for whatever the reason are invariably followed by a feast, and a feast need not mean a host/hostess rendered exhausted by hours of preparation in the kitchen. Easter means chicken, to me, because the lamb I like to eat – blackface – doesn’t mature properly until towards the end of September or into October. In Skye the sheep, of whatever breed, won’t start lambing until the end of this month. So chicken it is. And chicken gives us such potential for variety and convenience. Here are three recipes, all completely different, which can mostly be prepared in advance.

• Chicken stuffed with spinach and Parmesan with saffron sauce

The stuffing can be made today, the chicken breasts flattened and stuffed and rolled up in an ovenproof dish, all ready for tomorrow, when all that is required is to put the dish into the oven to cook. The saffron sauce to serve with the baked chicken breasts can be made entirely a day in advance, and reheated to serve.

SERVES 6

8oz/225g young spinach leaves

2 fat garlic cloves

3oz/85g grated Parmesan cheese

a good grating of nutmeg, about 15 grinds of black pepper – the Parmesan will provide enough saltiness

juice of 2 lemons

6 chicken breasts, all skin and bones removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

First, blanch the garlic cloves in their skin twice – put them into a small saucepan and cover them with cold water. Bring the water to the boil, immediately drain this off and cover the garlic cloves with cold water, and bring to the boil and drain this away.

Cut the tops off each garlic clove and the garlic will pop out of the skin easily. This takes away the harsh taste of raw garlic.

Next, put the spinach into a large saucepan and pour about 1in/2cm boiling water over, cover the pan with a lid and put the pan onto a high heat, just until the spinach within wilts, about 30 seconds. Then drain off the water and tip the spinach into a wide colander or sieve.

When cool enough to handle without scorching your hands, squeeze out the excess water.

Put the skinned garlic cloves into a food processor. Add the squeezed-out spinach, the grated Parmesan, the nutmeg and black pepper and half the lemon juice. Whizz to a coarse purée.

Put a large sheet of baking parchment onto a work surface. Put the chicken breasts onto this, well spaced, and cover with another sheet of parchment. With a rolling pin, bash the chicken breasts to flatten and widen them.

Remove the top sheet of parchment.

Divide the spinach and garlic mixture evenly between each chicken breast and spread evenly on each. Roll – or even just fold over – each breast around its stuffing. Secure each with a wooden toothpick and put them into a wide ovenproof dish, rubbed out with olive oil.

Spoon the olive oil over the chicken breasts in the dish, smoothing it over the surface of each. Pour the rest of the lemon juice into the dish around the chicken. Cover the surface of the chicken with a piece of baking parchment. Bake in moderate heat, 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, for 45-50 minutes. Remove the toothpicks from each of the chicken breasts, and serve, each with a spoonful of the following saffron sauce spooned over.

For the saffron sauce

2 small onions, each skinned, halved and finely and neatly diced

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon saffron strands

1 pint/570ml chicken stock

¼ pint/140ml double cream

1 teaspoon salt, about 15 grinds of black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, and fry the finely diced onions, over a moderate heat and stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. The onions should be completely soft and transparent, but not turning colour.

Then add the stock and the saffron, and let this simmer until reduced by about one third in amount. Stir in the double cream, bring the liquid back to a gentle simmer, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 3-4 minutes. The saffron strands will seep their deep golden colour, as well as their flavour, into the sauce.

• Chicken thighs baked with olives and artichokes

Allow 2 chicken thighs per person with 3-4 over, for second helpings, or to be eaten up cold the next day.

SERVES 6

16 chicken thighs, skin on

6 banana shallots, each skinned, halved lengthways and thinly sliced

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt, about 20 grinds of black pepper

24 black olives of your choice – mine is for Kalamata olives, the flesh cut from the stones.

contents of 2 jars of artichoke hearts preserved in olive oil, drained of their oil and rinsed, in a sieve, under gently running warm water.

1 large sprig of thyme

Put the chicken thighs side by side in a large ovenproof dish or roasting tin. Cover with clingfilm and store in a cool place, a larder or the fridge.

In a bowl, mix together the finely sliced shallots, the grated lemon rind and the olive oil, salt and black pepper. Mix very thoroughly. Cover the shallots mixture right onto the surface of the shallots with clingfilm, then cover the bowl itself with clingfilm. The next morning, put the contents of the bowl over the chicken thighs, evenly distributed. Bake in a moderate heat, 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, for 45-50 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the stoned black olives and the well-drained and rinsed artichoke hearts, and then tuck this mixture in amongst the chicken thighs with their fine coating of sliced shallots. Put the dish back into the oven, and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.

• Chicken thighs with roasted mushrooms and sherry cream sauce

SERVES 6

16 chicken thighs, skin on

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt, about 15 grinds of black pepper

For the sauce

1½lb/675g flat mushrooms (which have the best flavour), stalks cut even with the caps and the caps sliced into strips about ½ cm thick

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 onions, each skinned and halved and finely diced

¼ pint/140ml medium dry sherry

1 pint/570ml chicken stock

½ pint/285ml double cream

a good grating of nutmeg

To roast the chicken thighs – put them side by side onto a roasting tin. Brush them with olive oil, scatter the salt and black pepper evenly over their entire surface, and roast in a hot oven, 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 45-50 minutes, or until the skin is crisp.

To make the sauce – and this can be made entirely a day in advance and reheated to serve with the chicken thighs, start by roasting the mushrooms. Cover a baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment, and put the sliced mushrooms onto this. With your hands, mix the olive oil thoroughly through the sliced mushrooms, then spread them evenly on the parchment, and scatter the teaspoon of salt evenly over. Roast in a hot oven, 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, for 30-35 minutes – they should be well roasted, and they will have shrunken during their roasting time.

Meanwhile, put the finely diced onions into a saucepan with the sherry and stock and, over moderately high heat, simmer the liquid until reduced by about half in amount. Then stir in the double cream and nutmeg. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, stir in the roasted sliced mushrooms and serve the sauce, some spooned over each roasted chicken thigh.

 

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