Pesto chicken braise with cheesy dumplings

Oh my gosh, the BBC Food network has done it again! Divine and comforting.


Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 12.10.29 PM


Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
12-15 chicken thighs, skin removed, bone in (or boneless, skinless, if you prefer)
7 oz smoked bacon lardons, chopped prosciutto or chopped bacon
1 large onion, chopped
4 celery sticks, peeled and chopped
3 leeks, chopped
4 tbsp plain flour
7 fl oz white wine
2 pints chicken stock
2 bay leaves
8 oz frozen peas
5 oz sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
5 oz fresh pesto
small bunch basil, chopped

For the dumplings
5 oz butter
9 oz self-raising flour
4 oz parmesan, grated
2 oz pine nuts, lightly toasted

Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown it until golden on all sides – you might have to do this in batches – remove the chicken from the pan as you go and set aside.
Add the lardons to the pan and sizzle for a few mins, then add the onion, celery and leeks, and cook over a medium heat for 8-10 mins until the vegetables have softened. Stir in the flour, season and cook for a further 2 mins.

Gradually stir in the wine and allow it to bubble away, then stir in the stock. Return the chicken to the pan with the bay leaves and cover with a lid. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 1½ hrs or until the chicken is tender.(Or you can put it in a 350 F oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours) The stew can now be cooled and frozen if you’re making ahead. Just defrost thoroughly, then gently warm through back in the pan before continuing.

Heat oven to 400 F
Add the peas, sundried tomatoes, pesto and basil to the stew.

To make the dumplings, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the grated cheese, season with salt and pepper and add about 4 to 5 fluid ounces of water, mixing with a cutlery knife to bring the crumbs together to form a light and sticky dough. Break off walnut-sized lumps and shape into small balls.
Roll the tops of the dumplings in the pine nuts so a few stick to the outside, then place the dumplings on top of the stew and scatter with any remaining nuts. Put the dish in the oven and bake for 25 mins until the dumplings are golden brown and cooked through. Serve with mashed potato or rice and a nice green salad.

Roasted pesto, parmesan vegetable traybake

Yesterday, I did another traybake. I was on my own so decided to cut up a whole pile of vegetables, toss them with a container of pesto sauce from Trader Joes, lots of garlic, and when they were 3/4 through with the roasting, I threw at least half a container of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over everything and roasted it till it was all melted and browned.
It was divine and so healthy!

Preheat oven to 350 F


 You can choose whatever is in your fridge, but I used;
3 leeks, sliced into 1 inch slices
1lb Brussel Sprouts, trimmed
1/2 large cauliflower broken into florets
2 large red onions, cubed into 1 “ pieces
2 Delicata squash, unpeeled and cubed into 1” pieces
2 zucchini, cut into 1 “ slices

6 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 container Trader Joes pesto sauce (8oz)
6 oz (at least) grated Parmigano Reggiano

Put all the vegetables into a very large bowl then season well and add the garlic and pesto sauce.

Mix together well with your hands and tip all the contents out onto a large baking tray with shallow sides, like the one in the picture.

Roast the vegetables for 25 mins then turn all the vegetables to avoid burning and continue to roast for another 20 minutes.
Sprinkle with plenty of grated cheese and return to oven, turning the oven up to 400F for another 15 to 20 minutes until toasty and melted.

Serve on it’s own, or with a salad


Easy and tasty pesto croutons

We had a couple of composer friends for lunch a while ago and the salad course was a Caesar, but just for a change I decided to make my own croutons and added pesto sauce.
They must have been successful as one of our friends who doesn’t usually like croutons loved them and recently asked me for the recipe.

1 loaf of ciabatta bread, chopped into chunks for the croutons. I leave the crusts on.
1 cup good pesto sauce, either homemade or commercial.
1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic (at least) crushed
1 handful finely chopped fresh basil, if the pesto is commercial.
salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, add the pesto sauce, garlic, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. Stir well and add more olive oil if it’s too thick.
Throw the bread chunks into the bowl and toss well.
Lay out croutons onto a large shallow baking tray and roast at 350 F for about 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
Watch incase they burn though.
Remove from the oven and cool.
Serve if you haven’t already eaten them all!

Baked gnocchi with pesto and mozzarella

Serves 4    My nephew, Alessio made this and it was extremely successful.
2 1lb packs of ready made gnocchi
1/4 Savoy cabbage, thinly shredded
7 oz ball fresh mozzarella cheese
4 oz gorgonzola cheese, cut into small cubes
3 – 4 tbsp good pesto sauce
juice of half a lemon
1 -2 tbsp olive oil, to drizzle
grated parmesan cheese, to serve
Heat the oven to 375 F.
Put the gnocchi in a large pan of salted boiling water and cook until they float to the surface. (be careful not to overcook)
Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a large bowl
Add the cabbage to the gnocchi water, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Drain well and mix with the gnocchi.
Stir through the cheeses and the pesto.
Squeeze over the lemon juice then season well with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil
Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish and cook for 25 to 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and slightly colored.
Serve with grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Pesto Rice Salad

Another gem from Delia Smith..

Just as homemade pesto does wonders for pasta so it does for rice too. This salad can be served warm as a first course and it’s really good as an accompaniment to fish or chicken main-course dishes. Served cold it makes a lovely addition to a selection of salads for a buffet.

Serves 4 -6

Italian arborio rice measured to the 8fl oz of a glass measuring jug.
1 quantity of pesto sauce, preferably homemade. (See recipe below)
16 fl oz boiling vegetable or chicken stock
5 scallions (spring onions) finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A good handful of fresh basil leaves
3 oz Parmesan Reggiano cheese shavings (made with the potato peeler)
salt and freshly ground pepper

First of all measure the rice into the glass jug then add about one quarter of the pesto sauce to it and stir it around to coat all the grains.
Tip the mixture into a shallow saucepan or frying pan with a lid and pour the boiling stock into a jug (pitcher) then pour this over the rice.
Now turn on the heat and stir with a wooden spoon adding 1 tsp salt.
Then, when it begins to boil, put a lid on, turn the heat down to low and let the rice cook for exactly 20 minutes.
As soon as it’s ready, tip all the rice into a serving bowl. then simply pour in the lemon juice, olive oil and the remaining pesto sauce.
Combine all the ingredients together stirring and tossing.
At this stage, taste and season with salt and pepper.
Finally, scatter some torn basil leaves, finely chopped scallions and then some of the Parmesan shavings over the surface f the salad as a garnish.
If you want to serve the salad cold, then add the basil, onion and parmesan just before serving.


2 oz fresh basil leaves
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 oz Pecorina Romano cheese, grated
salt and pepper

In a blender, put the basil,pine nuts, garlic and olive oil with some salt and blend until you have a puree.
Then transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the grated Pecorino cheese.

Easy oven baked pesto chicken breasts

This is a recipe from “Kalyn’s Kitchen” food blog which I tried one evening when I didn’t really feel like cooking. It was so delicious I decided to post it.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and freshly ground pepper for seasoning the chicken
1/2 cup basil pesto
2 oz (1/2 cup) grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Trim all visible fat and tendons from the chicken pieces, then cut each breast lengthwise into 2 or 3 pieces. (I cut the larger ones into 3 and the smaller ones into 2 strips)

Spray a 9″ x 12″ baking dish with non stick spray, then spread 1/4 cup of basil pesto over the bottom of the dish. lay the chicken strips over the pesto then spread 1/4 cup more pesto over the chicken.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake the chicken for 25 to 30 minutes, just until the chicken is barely firm and cooked through. Don’t over cook at this point or the dish will be very overcooked by the time the cheese is melted and browned.

When the chicken is barely cooked through, remove the foil and sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese then 1/2 cup grated mozzarella. Put dish back in the oven without the foil and cook 5 more minutes or just until the cheese has melted. At this point it is nice to put under the broiler to get a nice color on the cheese.

Serve hot. There will be great and flavorful juice in the bottom of the dish so you may want rice, couscous, ciabatta bread or quinoa to soak up the juice.

My quick pesto mushroom starter

This is ever so quick and tasty, especially if you have your own homemade pesto, but a good brand of store-bought pesto works really well too. I haven’t given measurements as it’s a recipe to be creative with!

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Serves 4

4 large portobello mushrooms
about 2 tbsp pesto sauce per mushroom (preferably homemade)
2 large balls of fresh mozzarella (the ones in water)
good olive oil
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
ground pepper
lightly toasted pine nuts, (about 1 tbsp per mushroom)

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth, do not wash under running water, remove the stalks and put on a baking tray dark side up.
Sprinkle each with olive oil then put in the pesto sauce.
Top the pesto with torn up pieces of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle the pine nuts over.
Season with ground pepper and a little kosher salt. Add grated parmesan cheese, about 1-2 tbsp per mushroom.
Put under a broiler first and cook on a medium heat so as not to burn the pine-nuts, then if the mushrooms are still too raw, put them on the top shelf in the oven for about 10 minutes to soften them.