Ad Hoc Lemon Chicken Casserole

IMG_0364Once again, Sunday lunch crept up on me unawares. That is, I had stuff in the deep freeze and fridge but no carefully thought out “this goes with that” according to a planned schedule of recipes as recommended by guides to being a good housewife. So my preparation today was more like speed dating than matchmaking.

Chicken, that good old standby, goes with almost anything and I always have some chicken breasts for the days where I feel uninspired. There were also four mushrooms looking rather pathetic in the middle of the fridge, with beetroot, celery, broccoli, a red pepper, carrots and parsnips lurking in the veggie drawer. Fresh herbs remaining on the shelf are parsley, mint, rosemary and basil.

On the kitchen counter a dish with lemons and tangerines has been providing a decorative splash of colour for a couple of weeks, and I realised that their skins were beginning to harden. Alert: use-by date probably yesterday! There are innumerable appetising recipes for lemon chicken, mostly with chicken thighs, but as usual I ended up combining several to accommodate my ingredients. The mushrooms, beetroot and parsnips are still in the fridge, ready for another day’s dinner.

Someone recently was advertising an app for students wanting simple recipes, where you enter a list of ingredients and up pop delicious dishes. That seems unnecessary to me – Google or Jeeves will do the same and a bit of imagination can make it an individual speciality.

Our Sunday lunch was very tasty, and probably provided us with enough vitamin C to protect us against colds all through the winter. In fact, it was probably also quite low in calories, too, an additional bonus. And finally, like all casseroles and stews, washing up is kept to a minimum.

Lemon Chicken Casserole

  • 2 chicken breasts, split through the middle into butterflies
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 stick celery
  • 3 lemons
  • leaves of 2 sticks of rosemary
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ gas mark 6. Mix the juice of 2 lemons with the honey, oil, butter, rosemary, crushed garlic, salt and pepper, and heat to a fragrant-smelling sauce – I did this in the microwave, to save washing up a saucepan. You could also use the zest of the lemons and probably add a dollop of mustard and soy sauce. I suppose you could also add a chicken stock cube or thicken the sauce with flour. I didn’t so I don’t know if this would improve it or not.

Place the chicken pieces flat on the bottom of a roasting tin or casserole dish and pour the sauce over. Cut the 3rd lemon into 8 wedges, and place evenly around the chicken. Dice the potatoes and vegetables and add to the chicken.

Cook for at least 50 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. This casserole can actually stay happily in the oven as long as you like: mine was there for almost 2 hours. I added a few broccoli florets at the end (quickly cooked in the microwave) for extra colour, flavour and vitamins.

My only problem with this dish was finding a wine to go with the strong lemon taste. Or rather, no problem: just no wine!

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