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Delia copped a lot of unfair flack for suggesting that it’s better to cook from scratch using a few shortcuts than not to cook at all.
I agree and here’s my favourite cheat recipe – a creamy chicken in white wine casserole. I’ve been making it since student days so can’t remember where the idea came from but it’s a good after work idea as it’s another one that take a few minutes to pull together then sits in the oven while you go and do something more exciting for an hour.
The cheat is a tin of Campbell‘s condensed soup – either cream of chicken or mushroom. As long as there’s one of those in the cupboard, you can knock this together very quickly. It’s a one-pan wonder as long as you have a dish that can go from stove to oven.
First brown off some chicken portions. I always buy thighs as there’s more flavour than breast or fillet meat. They’re also cheaper so you can go for free range.
Remove the chicken to a plate and most of the fat from the dish then fry some bacon along with an onion, garlic and mushrooms (or leeks). Once softened, put the chicken back in the pan and pour in a good glass of white wine (or about half a glass of dry vermouth). Wine freezes well if you want to keep leftovers for such an occassion.
Let the alcohol burn off the wine for a few minutes before adding the tin of soup and about half a pint of chicken stock. At this point it looks like a disaster – the soup needs to warm into the wine and stock and will seem particularly gloopy and unappetizing until it does but don’t panic.
Add a bay leaf and some chopped tarragon if you have it (neither are essential – I can’t remember ever owning tarragon as a student), cover and give it 45 minutes in the oven at 150C. Check to see that the chicken is cooked through (juices will be clear) and that the sauce has thickened. If not, give it another 15 mins.
It’s good with mash and veg or with a big pile of tagliatelle.