It’s possibly a bit of an understatement to say that this week has been unusually busy … and it’s only half way through! (wipes brow and forces drooping eye-lids apart) I switched countries, again. I zipped off to the dentist for a long-awaited emergency appointment on my first day here in Greece, which is definitely a sore subject, both figuratively and literally! And, last but definitely not least in the busyness department, I started commuting again almost an hour to and another hour from work, where there’s a Friday deadline looming already. Yikes!
So as you can imagine there hasn’t been too much time for cooking this week, but I couldn’t resist squeezing in just a little! Despite all the head-spinning craziness of trying to get things rolling in a new place again on Monday, I decided to get into the Mediterranean swing of things by making this super simple, colourful and tangy-flavoured stove-top casserole.
I don’t know if it makes sense to say that the flavours and colours of the casserole seemed to me to match the lovely warm, sunny spring-like weather we’ve been having here in the Med since I got back (so sorry to rub it in for those of you in places still suffering with a super chilly (US) or soggy and windy (UK) winter!) Don’t worry, though, it is still a hearty dish perfect for warming you up in the nastiest winter weather I can imagine!
Making this casserole basically entails no more than just browning some chicken thighs, frying chopped onion and garlic with some chunky pancetta, red peppers, paprika and thyme and then adding some chopped tomatoes, stock and, if you like, red wine. You let it all simmer away for a while. Then, at almost the last minute, you throw in a few capers and olives before serving the casserole out with a big mound of creamy mashed potato and crumbling some feta cheese over the top. I did warn you you’d be seeing a bit of feta cheese around here!
Even if you aren’t usually keen on olives or capers, I’d encourage you to try adding a few anyway because the salty tangy-ness they add really does bring out and complement all the other lovely Mediterranean flavours so well.
The wonderful bonus of this casserole was that I made enough for four, so on the next night I shredded up the remaining chicken, tipped everything into a baking dish, stuck a pastry lid on top (I used ready-made to make things even easier), glazed it with egg and baked it for around 25 minutes at 200 degrees C/390 degrees F to make a tasty Mediterranean pie for Mr. Scrummy and I. I didn’t add any feta cheese this time, instinctively thinking that the pie would be rich enough without it, but I think it would have worked fine if I had!
I encourage you to give this a try next time you’re in the mood for a chicken casserole – with a twist! Two meals in one, remember!
Serves: Serves 4
- a couple of tablespoons of olive oil
- 8 chicken thighs
- 50 to 100 grams pancetta (I used diced from a thick slab)
- 1 onion, sliced into rounds
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- A 400 gram/14 ounce tin of chopped tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 and ½ teaspoons paprika
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 500ml (about 2 cups) chicken stock
- 125ml (half a cup) red wine
- 2 red peppers, chopped into medium-sized pieces
- 1 heaped tablespoon of corn flour, for thickening
- about 1 tablespoon of capers
- about 10 black olives, pitted (I used lovely juicy Kalamata olives)
- feta cheese for crumbling over the dish (amount to taste)
- mashed potatoes, to serve
- Heat the oil in a large stove-top casserole dish or pot, then brown the chicken on both sides. Then transfer it to a plate.
- In the same pan, fry the pancetta for a few minutes, then add the onion and cook on a medium heat for around 5 minutes before adding the garlic and paprika and cooking for another few minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, bay leaves and thyme to the pan (pick the leaves off) and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Put the chicken back in the pan with the stock, wine and red peppers. When it’s boiling, turn down the heat and let the casserole simmer for about 40 minutes.
- Just before the end of the cooking time, mix the corn flour with a little water, then stir into the pan to thicken the sauce a little. Add the capers and olives.
- Crumble feta cheese over the casserole to taste just before serving. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes.
This recipe would probably also work well made in a crock-pot. Let me know if you try it (I’d brown the chicken first).