Eastern spiced chicken stew and dumplings

chicken stew

Serves 2.5 or 1.5 with leftovers

For the stew:

400g diced chicken thigh

Flour for browning the chicken – probably about 30g

1 teaspoon zaatar

1/2 teaspoon sumac (if you haven’t had an Yotam Ottolenghi phase you can substitute lemon zest for the sumac and a combination of dried oregano, cumin and marjoram for the zaatar)

A little olive oil

1 onion, thickly sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 small carrots, cut into batons

Handful of greens, finely chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

A low salt stock cube

200 ml water

For the dumplings:

50g self raising flour

50g breadcrumbs (looking to start my own breadcrumbs business soon)

50g suet

A good pinch of zaatar or other herbs

1 egg

Dust the chicken in the flour and herbs then brown in the olive oil in a hot pan. Transfer to a casserole dish and fry the onions and garlic in a little more oil, adding the carrot when they’re nearly cooked. Cook them in a fairly hot pan so the onions get a little charred. Add to the meat along with the rest of the veg (greens as small as you can get ’em – we mean to deceive here), the stock cube, any remaining flour and 200ml of water. That’s not much water, but thin gravy and babies are a wildly chaotic combination. Bring to the boil, put the lid on and cook in a low oven (140-160 degrees), or the Aga simmering oven, for around 2-3 hours.

The Aga’s actually good at this, since nothing ever dries out in the simmering oven. In a standard oven you may need to keep checking that it hasn’t dried out and adding a little water if so. On the other hand, you have the advantage of being able to cook chips, cook more than once in a 24 hour period, have crisp skin on your chicken…

For the dumplings, combine the dry ingredients then add most of the beaten egg. Hold a little back as you may not need it all. Gather into a dough, adding a bit more egg if you need it. Form into around 10 baby dumplings (about walnut sized) and keep in the fridge till you need them. Pop them in the casserole and put the lid back on when there’s about 15 – 20 minutes cooking time to go and they’ll steam in the heat. The dumplings are a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe and I’ve never felt the need to look elsewhere.

Dumplings aren’t that much more trouble than mash once you’ve taken into account the peeling and the mashing, but this would be nice with mash too (if equally inauthentic).

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