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Hearty winter dinners

Chicken and bacon casserole

SERVES 4 - 8

This is simple comfort food, just how it should be. If you like your casserole dish enough, serve the chicken straight from this in the centre of the table.

450g (1lb) piece of streaky bacon, cut into 2cm (¾in) chunks
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 chicken, jointed into 8 pieces
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 4 cm (1½ in) chunks, or 12 baby carrots, scrubbed and left whole
10 baby onions, peeled or 4 medium onions, peeled and halved (red onions are good, too)
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
400ml (14 fl.oz) chicken stock or, failing that, water
sprig of thyme, rosemary or sage

Put the bacon into a small saucepan of cold water and bring up to the boil to remove any excess salt. Drain, then dry the bacon on kitchen paper. Heat up a frying pan, add 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté the bacon until golden and crispy. Remove to a casserole, then add the chicken to the pan, adding more oil if necessary. Sauté the chicken for a few minutes until golden, then remove to the casserole. Next, sauté the carrots, onions and garlic for a minute, seasoning with salt and pepper, then add them to the other sautéed ingredients in the casserole. Deglaze the frying pan by adding the stock to the frying pan over a high heat, dissolving all the juices on the bottom. Then pour the stock into the casserole. Add a sprig of thyme, rosemary or sage and put into the oven at 160°C/325°F/gas 3 for about 45 minutes or until cooked. Strain the juices if you like (if you haven't added flour at the start; see note below), spoon any fat off the top and add back in to the stew. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley. Serve with mashed potatoes.

NOTE: You could put potatoes on top of this in the casserole.
NOTE: You could also add 150ml (5 fl.oz) white wine into the stock when you are deglazing the pan.
NOTE: If you want the juices to be slightly thick, you could toss the chicken pieces in flour seasoned with a little salt and pepper before you brown them, making sure not to burn them. Or you could thicken the juices with some roux at the very end, then pour back into the chicken and vegetables.

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