The secret to making hot, haute Chicken and Potato Casserole

One of the things I love about the winter is that the backdrop of cold and dark days is the perfect excuse to indulge in one-pot comforts reminiscent of home. So much so that when my girlfriend Affi sent me the link to this potato dish on TipHero, I immediately drew parallels with some of the one-pot recipes I grew up on back home.

More often than not, the carb of choice in these recipes would be Yam, but in replicating this dish, I have chosen to use potatoes given its wider availability in Europe. The other adaptation I have made is to cook this as a casserole, which is quite a popular method of cooking across Africa.

I remember my grandmum would have a pot cooking on the firewood-powered stove for hours on end - and as a child, I always wondered why cooking took so long! She obviously knew something I didn't - and now I get it..

Back then in rural Nigeria, every respectable family reared some chicken, and goats, and these animals provided valuable meat, eggs and sometimes milk. The chickens were allowed to roam freely within the boundaries of their coop (which was the whole back garden), so in effect, they were raised organic. This however meant the meat was usually tougher than commercially-reared chicken. Grandma was also no butcher, so most of the meat was served on-the-bone - and that, my dear readers, is the first secret to this dish. With that, I will let you into my pandora's box of secrets of how to turn an ordinary casserole into a "designer" casserole:

  1. Choose a tough cut of meat: These have lots of connective tissue which becomes tender when cooked slowly. You don't want to end up with meat that has completely fallen apart after the long process of cooking is done. Chicken is a great choice of meat for casseroles. For best results, choose chicken on the bone.
  2. Meat on-the-bone? even better! Cut the meat on the bone, revealing part of that bone. Not only will the flavours from the cooking penetrate the bone, giving you even more flavoursome meat, but the bone also will allow the meat to cook slower resulting in very tender piece of meat.
  3. Brown the meat or chicken first. You want to coax out the flavours from the meat, and there is no better way to do this than browning the meat in butter and oil. Do this in small batches so the meat fries in the oil and you will be rewarded. Too much meat packed into the pan will cause the meat to boil in its juices! NOT GOOD!!
  4. Cut all your ingredients to a similar size so that everything cooks evenly. If you are adding any ingredients that cook quickly to the dish, add these towards the end of the cooking. I added basil leaves to my dish which were introduced towards the end.
  5. Use a casserole dish with a tight-lid so you don't lose too much moisture during the cooking. 

This dish is delightfully easy to make. Just toss all the prepared ingredients into a casserole dish, cover it, set the timer on the oven and that is pretty much it folks. For this dish, I am cooking the chicken and potato using a tomato sauce as a base. To add more flavour, I grilled the tomatoes, onions and garlic first before pureeing and adding to the dish.

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Recipe adapted from TipHero.com


chicken and potato casserole

Serves 4


Ingredients

1 medium-sized whole chicken (approx. 1.75kg - 2kg in weight)

700g waxy potatoes

3 teaspoons olive oil

1 large bell pepper

2 medium-sized onion

3 cloves of garlic

1 scotch bonnet pepper (de-seeded)

400mls tomato passata

250mls chicken stock

100g fresh mushrooms

1 packet of Maggi Tender and Juicy chicken seasoning (if not available, you can substitute with 1 tablespoon mild paprika, 2 teaspoons coriander and 1 teaspoon ginger)

10g fresh thyme

20g fresh basil

Salt and Pepper


Method

At least 6 hours before cooking, sprinkle sea salt all over the chicken and let rest in refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator at least an hour before cooking to allow to come to room temperature.

Set your oven grill to 200* Centigrade.

De-seed the bell pepper by cutting out the centre of the pepper at the stalk end and pulling out the centre.

Cut the pepper in half and then chop into smaller pieces. Peel the onions, cut in half and then chop lengthwise into smaller pieces. Peel the garlic cloves.

Place chopped bell peppers and onions, along with the peeled garlic cloves and de-seeded scotch bonnet onto a baking pan and drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil on the vegetables. Grill in oven for 10 minutes.

Transfer the grilled vegetables, including the basil to a blender or food processor and pulse to a puree.

Peel the potatoes and cut the potatoes into egg-sized chucks.  For a medium-sized potato, you may need to cut it in thirds, while a smaller potato may need to be cut in half. It is important to cut them all to roughly the same size so that they'll cook evenly.

Wash the potatoes in cold water, then place the potatoes in a large saucepan. Add water and salt and bring to a rolling boil. Then cook for a further 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Sprinkle some black pepper on the chicken pieces, and heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the chicken in batches and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side to brown the chicken. Transfer to an ovenproof casserole dish. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces until all the pieces have been browned.

In the casserole dish containing the browned chicken, add the parboiled potatoes, and the rest of the ingredients except the basil (tomato passata, pureed vegetables, mushrooms, chicken stock, Maggi chicken seasoning, and fresh thyme). 

Stir to mix thoroughly, cover tightly and bake in oven at 200* centigrade or 180* centigrade (fan-assisted oven) for 50-60 minutes.


Nutritional Info

Calories - 427.4, Total Fat - 14.1g, Protein - 29.4g, Carbohydrate - 46.4g



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