THE ISLAND COOK

CHICKEN, HAM & LEEK BAKE WITH ORANGE & OREGANO STUFFING

If this sounds a bit fussy, have no fear – it's wickedly fast and loose. Doesn't look too pretty I admit, but you could glam it up by replacing the dried herb with a fresh one. Garden sage (not easy to buy outside of the festive season) or fleshy supermarket thyme would be nice, a few roughly chopped leaves or sprigs respectively, but oregano is the most reliable cupboard herb (not as coarse as dried thyme) with its whiff of sun-soaked Med to warm the cockles. Depending on the size of your baking dish, the stuffing may not stretch to cover the meat mixture entirely, as here, but no matter – just pat out handfuls into fairly thin wodges and roughly patch together over the centre. I have Zoe Richardson to thank for its fatless quality, who smartly chose to dispense with my long-held custom of adding a little suet (albeit the ligher veggie version) with no detriment to texture or flavour. Serve with broccoli and carrots.

2 tsp olive oil Serves 2
175g skinless, boneless chicken breast
salt and pepper
75g cooked lean ham, diced
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp plain flour
1/2 chicken stock cube dissolved in 200ml boiling water
about 125ml semi-skimmed milk
85g white Nimble or Danish bread (without crusts)
2 tsp dried oregano
2 shallots, chopped
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 medium egg, beaten

Preheat your oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Snip the chicken into 2.5cm chunks with kitchen scissors, season and cook for about 5 minutes until browned all over. Add the ham and leeks and sauté for about 10 minutes until the leeks are softened. Add the spices and flour and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Stir in the stock and milk and heat, stirring, until gently bubbling. Simmer for 5 minutes or so until thickened, adding a little more milk to thin if needed. Meanwhile, whizz the bread with the oregano in a food processor until crumbed. Add the shallots and zest and whizz again briefly, then mix in enough of the egg to bind. Tip the chicken mixture into a baking dish, top with a rough, fairly thin layer of the stuffing and bake for 15–20 minutes until crisp and browned.

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