Rachel Allen was brought up in Dublin and left home at eighteen to study at the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School. Rachel is now a busy ...
1 chicken (1.8kg/4lb)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tblsp olive oil
350 g unsliced, rindless streaky bacon (cut into 1-2cm chunks)
1 large onion (peeled and chopped)
2 large carrots (peeled and cut into 2cm slices on the diagonal)
700 ml chicken or vegetable stock
few sprigs of thyme
for the cheesy herb dumplings:
350 g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
300 ml buttermilk or soured milk
2 tblsp finely chopped mixed herbs (such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon or chives)
25 g cheddar cheese, finely grated
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Remove the breasts from the chicken and cut them in half. Remove the leg portions and divide them into thighs and drumsticks. This will give eight chicken pieces in total.
Season them well with salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil into a large casserole dish on a high heat, add the bacon and fry quickly for 1-2 minutes or until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Add the chicken in batches and sear on each side until golden, then remove.
Add the onion and carrots and fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden.
Return the bacon and chicken to the dish, pour on the stock, add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Bring slowly to the boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the dumplings. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl, add the herbs, mix, then make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the buttermilk or soured milk (leaving about 50ml (1¾floz) in the measuring jug). Using one hand with your fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together, adding a little more buttermilk if necessary. Don’t knead the mixture or it will become too heavy. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky.
Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and bring together, forming it into a round. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 2cm thick. With a scone cutter stamp out 10-12 dumplings, or divide the dough into 10-12 pieces and roll each one between your hands into a small ball.
Remove the casserole dish from the oven and turn the heat up to 230°C (450°F/Gas 8). Arrange the dumplings on top, leaving a slight gap between them to allow for spreading. Scatter with the cheese.
Return to the oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6), and cook for a further 20 minutes until the dumplings are crisp and golden and the chicken is cooked through.
Variation - Pork instead of Chicken
Use 600g trimmed cubes of shoulder of pork. Pre-heat oven to 170C / Gas 3.
Fry the bacon as above until crisp and remove to drain on kitchen paper.
Toss the pieces in 2 tablespoons of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper.
Heat a casserole dish and add a tablespoons of oil, brown half the pork then repeat with the other half.
Remove and set aside. Add the onion and carrots as above, then return meat to the casserole. Cover with stock and bring up to simmer.
Place into the oven for 1 hour. Turn up the heat 230C/Gas 8, add the dumplings on top for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 200C/Gas 6 and cook for a further 20 minutes.
This recipe and many more are available in Rachel's new book, 'Rachel Allen: Home Cooking', published by Harper Collins.