One of my favourite comfort foods is a good chicken stew served with dumplings. When I was going through a particularly bad patch a short while ago my mother created these wonderful butter dumplings which, for me, are absolutely wonderful.
REPLACE WITH SUET DUMPLINGS, IF PREFERRED.
6 to 8 servings
1.15 litres chicken stock
1.8 kg chicken thighs – unskinned and with bone
1 tbsp unsalted butter and 1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion – roughly chopped
2 celery stalks – trimmed, peel and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 medium carrots – peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves)
6 tbsp plain white or all purpose flour
60 ml Spanish dry sherry
40 grams EACH frozen peas and sweetcorn
15 ml (1 tbsp) crème fraîche
White pepper and sea salt
250 grams plain white flour
1 dessert spoon (2 tsp) baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt, pinch white pepper
125 grams unsalted butter (return to original wrapper, freeze until firm, not frozen)
4 tbsp finely chopped fresh herb leaves – flat leaf parsley, fresh chives and tarragon
1. Place the stock into a medium saucepan, bring up to a simmer, keep warm over a low heat.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter with the oil in a large frying pan, when hot brown the chicken thighs in batches (skin side down then turn over). Retain the fat in the frying pan.
3. Take out of the pan and place into the simmering chicken stock; poach until cooked.
4. Remove and allow to cool until safe to handle – remove the skin and bone; shred the chicken, put to one side.
5. Return the frying pan – with the fat – to a medium-high heat, when hot add the onion, celery, carrot and thyme, fry until the onion is translucent, without browning.
6. Reduce heat to medium-low, push the vegetables to one side, stir in the flour and cook for two minutes.
7. Pour the sherry into the stock, add a ladle full at a time into the stew, while stirring until incorporated; continue adding the stock until incorporated.
8. Stir in the chicken, sweetcorn and peas, bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer gently.
9. Meanwhile, make the dumplings.
10. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper into a baking bowl, whisk in the herbs.
11. Remove the butter from the freezer, grate into the dry ingredients, while dipping in the flour throughout the process.
12. Toss to coat the butter in flour, rub in briefly then add sufficient cold water to bring the ingredients together to form a soft dough.
13. Divide into 8 dumplings, shape into balls and gently place into the stew – cover and simmer for 20 minutes – check, if not ready return the lid and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more.
14. Transfer the dumplings – using a slotted spoon – to a serving dish.
15. Stir the parsley and crème fraîche into the stew, season to taste then ladle onto plates, spoon the sauce over the dumplings and serve immediately.