Let this chicken casserole with chunky cheesy dumplings slow-cook in the oven for just over an hour and you've got yourself a winter warmer that the whole family will love
- 1 chicken (1.8kg/4lb)
- Salt and freshly ground
- Black pepper
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 350g(12oz) unsliced rindless streaky bacon, cut into 1-2cm (½in) chunks
- 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm (1in) slices on the diagonal
- 700ml(1G pints) chicken or vegetable stock
- Few sprigs of thyme
- For the cheesy herb dumplings:
- 350g (12oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1tsp salt
- 300ml (½ pt) buttermilk or soured milk
- 2tbsp finely chopped mixed herbs, such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon or chives
- 25g(1oz) Cheddar cheese, finely grated
- 5cm (2in) scone cutter (optional)
To make this chicken casserole, preheat the oven to 180ºC, 350ºF, gas mark 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 mins 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 mins 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 mins.
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/2fl oz 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 (1in) thick. With the 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 230ºC, 450ºF, gas mark 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 mins, then reduce the heat to 200ºC, 400ºF, gas mark 6, and cook for a further 20 mins until the dumplings are crisp and golden and the chicken is cooked through.