Two music graduates chronicle the culinary delights of Leeds and London and explore the height of fine dining on a limited budget.

Good food is well punk.

March 03, 2010

Coq au Something

Is there anything more satisying than a good stew? A more luxurious (i.e. meaty) offering today, it's called Coq au Something because I just threw in anything that would taste good. I'd like to think the use of addition of courgettes is a fusion of northern and southern French culinary styles, but it's only because I didn't have any carrots in the house. Dumplings are a great addition on a frosty spring night, but if you don't like them, mashed potato or crusty bread would be great to soak up all the delicious juices. I used a slow cooker purely so I could get all the prep done in the morning, btu it's just as easy in a casserole dish.

Serves 5-6

6 Chicken Thighs
2 Onions
4 rashers streaky bacon
1-2 Courgettes
1 stick of celery
2 medium potatoes
6 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp thyme
1 Sprig fresh rosemary
2 Chicken stock cubes
1 Largeish glass of red wine
A fair amount of flour
Salt and Pepper

For the dumplings:
50g Suet
100g self-raising flour
Salt and pepper
Optional: assorted dried herbs

Tear the skins off the chicken and gently fry until crispy in a dry pan to render out the fat.
Slice the onions, chop the bacon and fry gently in a mixture of chicken fat and butter until the onions are soft (but not brown).Chop the garlic fairly finely and add to the mixture to cook for a minute or two. Remove the mixture from the pan and place in a casserole dish or similar. Do the same for the celery and courgettes (or carrots if you're using them) and sauté lightly until slightly golden. Add to the dish. Lightly coat the chicken in flour and fry until browned. Place the chicken in the dish and pour over the wine. Add the stock cubes, crumbled up, and enough water to cover the ingredients. Bung in the herbs, salt and pepper, and diced potatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour and a half on the hob, or cook for about eight hours in the slow cooker.

At some point near the end of cooking, make the dumplings by crumbling the suet into the flour, add the salt, peppers and herbs if using, and add enough lukewarm water to make a pliable dough. Divide into about 10 balls and simply plop on top of the stew. Leave them to cook for about half an hour and serve.

The meat should be falling off the bone, and the mixture will have taken on a slightly gloopy texture from the flour, bone marrow and fats reacting together in a tasty bit of food science. Using a slow cooker apparently saves energy and produces some amazingly soft meat, but takes a spot of faith and the willpower to not keep checking it, while using a casserole dish on the hob can make some lovely slightly burnt bits at the bottom of the pan. Using wine in cooking sometimes feels like a waste of perfectly good alcohol, but it really comes to the fore in meals like this. You can probably use any old shitty plonk - the bottle I used had been left open all night - and it'll still add a brilliant depth of flavour to the dish. The beauty of meals like this is that they're instantly appealing and infinitely adaptable. Cook for a bit longer, add a pasty topping and you've got an instant pie. It freezes well, and a small portion reheated with some brown rice would make a fantastically indulgent midweek lunch.

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