Pesto Chicken Stew with Cheesy Dumplings

This is one of my favourite recipes from BBC Good Food which I have made multiple times, and it never fails to warm you up on a cold day – it’s the ultimate Autumnal comfort food.

What’s also great is that you make it all in one big pot and any leftovers can be frozen for another night (I have been known to cook this recipe for 8 people for just myself and freeze the rest!)

Due to the fact I have made this recipe various times, I have tried different additions along the way, the most successful of which I will include below! I hope you enjoy it 🙂

Ingredients (serves 8):

Dumplings:

  • 140g butter
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 100g parmesan, grated
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 150ml cold water
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (my addition)

Stew:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 12-15 chicken thighs (with bone but no skin)
  • 200g smoked bacon lardons (I also like to use pancetta cubes as an alternative)
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 4 celery sticks, chopped
  • 3 leeks, chopped
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 200ml white wine (I find a light wine such as a sauvignon blanc works best)
  • 1 litre good quality chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 140g sundried tomatoes
  • 140g fresh pesto (green pesto)
  • Small bunch of basil, chopped

Method:

I like to start by making the dumplings first, as then they can chill in the fridge until needed. Place the flour in a large bowl, and chop the butter into small cubes and add to the flour. Then as if you were making a crumble topping, rub the flour and butter between your fingertips to resemble fine breadcrumbs.

Mix in the grated cheese and chopped basil and approximately 150ml of cold water, adding bit by bit whilst you mix with a cutlery knife until it all comes together to form a light dough, which is slightly sticky to the touch. Break off walnut sized pieces and roll into small balls and (after placing the pine nuts on a plate) roll in the pine nuts so they stick to the outside. Put all the dumplings on a cling filmed plate in the fridge.

Next, it’s time for the stew! Heat the oil in a large casserole dish and brown the chicken so all sides are golden. Due to the amount of the chicken I would advise doing this in a couple of batches, and setting aside in a separate bowl once browned. Once all the chicken is browned, leave to the side.

Next, add the bacon lardons (or pancetta cubes) to the casserole dish to crisp up, then add the onion, celery and leeks. Cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Stir in the flour and season with salt and pepper, cooking for another couple of minutes.

Stir in the wine and allow to reduce slightly, then stir in the stock. Return the chicken thighs to the pan along with the bay leaves; cover the casserole dish with a lid. Reduce the heat so that the stew is gently simmering, and then leave to simmer for about 1.5 hours, or until the chicken is tender.

(Remove the dumplings from the fridge during the last 30 minutes of the stew’s cooking time, to allow them to come back up to room temperature.)

Heat the oven to 200 / 180 degrees celsius if fan oven. Add the peas, sundried tomatoes, pesto and basil to the stew, stirring everything in. Place the dumplings on top of the stew and scatter a few more pine nuts on top if you wish. Place the dish in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes until the dumplings are golden and cooked through.

pesto chick stew

I like to serve this dish with home made crusty bread to mop up the lovely juices!

As mentioned above, any leftovers can be portioned off and frozen for another day. Enjoy! 😀

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Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

On a nice sunny autumnal Sunday I decided to use the remaining butternut squash up in a soup – I find this soup a great winter warmer and I can’t get enough of it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

N.B. – I find with soup a lot of it is down to preference – many soups can be made thin, think, chunky or smooth whilst all using the same ingredients, so please feel free to adapt my below recipe to suit your needs if you prefer it a different way !

Soup Ingredients (makes 10 portions)

  • 2 medium and 1 small butternut squash
  • 4 pints of chicken stock (two cubes)
  • 3 large onions
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 3 ounces of butter
  • 2.5 tsp cumin seeds (or powder)
  • 5 tsp red chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Toppings (for 1 portion)

  • 3-5 slices of pancetta (depending on how much you like it!)
  • A fine shaving of parmesan
  • A swirl of smoked rapeseed oil
  • Additional salt and pepper

Method:

Firstly, you either need a very sharp large knife, a strong man, or both! 😛 Slice your butternut squash length ways into quarters, place on a couple of large baking trays and brush with olive oil. After this, scatter across a generous helping of salt and pepper along with the chilli flakes and cumin seeds.

N.B. – I used dried red chilli from my garden for this recipe, which tend to vary in hotness, but are pretty powerful none the less! However you can buy chilli flakes by the jar, which are generally a medium hotness – sometimes it will say on the jar how hot they are also – so keep your eyes peeled if you are not good with too much spice!

Once your butternut squash are prepared with the spices, place the trays in the oven (180-200 degrees celsius) for about 40 minutes. (If your butternut squash quarters are quite thick they may take slightly longer to cook.)

Whilst your butternut squash is nicely roasting, prepare your garlic and onion, by finely slicing. When your butternut squash is tender when inserting a fork it is ready, take out and leave to cool for a few minutes. Once cool, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from the skins, and put it to the side in a large bowl and mash into small chunks using a wooden spoon ready for the next stage.

Butternut squash soup.5

Place the butter in a large saucepan and heat until melted, then cook the onions and garlic in the butter until soft. Next, add 4 litres (or less if you like a thicker soup – but remember this will mean it won’t feed as many people!) of good quality chicken stock. I find the Knorr Chicken Stock Pot Gel nicely intense and flavoursome.

Butternut squash soup.1

Heat until simmering, and then add the butternut squash. Let it heat up gradually until simmering again, and simmer for 5 minutes. Take your soup mixture off the heat and spoon into a food blender – you may need to do this in two stages! Blend until smooth, and put your finished soup altogether into a large casserole sized dish, giving a final mix and taste – adding more salt and pepper if needed.

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When you are ready for your own bowl of soup, reheat an individual portion either in a saucepan on the hob, or in the microwave for about 3-6 minutes. Whilst your soup is heating, grill or fry your pancetta until crisp, then fold in kitchen paper to get rid of any extra grease.

When your soup is ready, grate a small amount of parmesan over the top, grind over a little more salt and pepper, add a swirl of smoked rapeseed oil and place or crumble your pancetta on top – and voila!

Enjoy by the fire with a nice glass of wine 😀

Butternut squash soup.4

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The Wellington Arms

I’ve grown up with this restaurant and watched it grow into an award winning gastro pub, thanks to the wonderfully talented owners Simon (front of house) and Jason (head chef).

The Wellington Arms is a lot more special than your typical gastro pub. Lots of great little things go into making it a superb pub that I love to go to. I have visited many times before and I can see myself continuing to visit for a long while yet.

The pub is tucked away in the village of Baughurst, but this doesn’t stop people coming from far and wide for a meal there, which I suggest you must do if you haven’t been before! One thing that makes this pub so special is that there are only a handful of tables. Originally, there were only 8 tables, so you can imagine how you had to book in advance! Since then the pub has been slightly extended to allow for a few more tables and a little more space, but this has done nothing to diminish the homely country pub feeling you get when stepping inside.

The select and delicious evening menu which is chalked up on a blackboard changes daily in line with the produce Simon and Jason grow themselves. As I have my own vegetable and fruit produce and chickens at home, it makes it extra appealing to me that The Wellington Arms grows all its own fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as sourcing all meat, fish and other things as locally as possible.

Needless to say, the food is fabulous! Some of my favourites include:

  • Twice baked Marksbury Cheddar soufflé on braised leeks with a little cream & parmesan
  • Baked potato gnocchi panfried in butter with garlic, broad beans, peas, broccoli, thyme & parmesan

As mentioned before, their menu can change daily, so I have also enjoyed the gnocchi with butternut squash, walnuts, and many other glorious additions!

There isn’t one dish that I’ve tried that I can possibly fault, but in particular I love their lamb and cod dishes, as well as their (when I’m feeling very hungry) whole roast partridge with parsnip crisps, the picture for which (below) I have taken from the website:

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Puddings, as you can imagine, are also all freshly home made, including sticky toffee pudding, chocolate pudding, marmalade sponge and a selection of delicious sorbets and ice creams, served with a little home made shortbread – naughty but oh so nice! I recently went here for dinner for my birthday, and was thoughtfully presented with a candle in my sponge, so I made my parents sing happy birthday!:

Happy Birthday to me!

Happy Birthday to me!

As well as eating a beautiful dinner here, Simon’s mum makes knitted tea cosies for tea pots and eggs, and you can buy jam, eggs and other wonderful produce or home made items. However I think I need to invest in a smaller teacup to go with my teapot:

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Lastly, if travelling from afar or just fancy a night away at a lovely hideaway like this, complete with glorious food, then there are three unique and stunning rooms available to stay in, you can have a look at these rooms here: http://www.thewellingtonarms.com/accommodation/

I hope you find the time to visit The Wellington Arms, as it really is a country pub gem you can’t miss out on! I’ll end with a couple more pictures from their website which demonstrate the points I have made throughout this review, hope to maybe see you there one day soon! 🙂

welly5

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