TOMATO CHICKEN BAKE WITH A PARMESAN & THYME BREADCRUMB TOP

Tomato Chicken Bake with a Parmesan & Thyme Breadcrumb Top.

This is such a typical ‘Mikey Meal’. The kind of meal that would make a partner roll their eyes in a ‘Oh, again?’ fashion. I loves a bake and I can’t deny it. I have always said that my standard go to dishes are basically frying meat in a plethora of ingredients I need to use up, throwing in a pulse, a can of tomatoes and then baking them. This recipe is no exception and under no circumstance am I going to apologise for it.

Again, this kind of meal is going to be the meal that my children will dread. ‘Here goes Dad again with his bake’. Well, let it be so. This is a delicious meal that satisfies every single craving that I need of an evening and more than that, I am even prouder of this meal than I should be because of it’s frugality. That’s corect – the majority of ingredients here with only incorporated as they were lying around my kitchen threatening to leave of their own accord if I did not do something with them quickly.

The pepper was the last one left in the pack of three and was feeling so ignored the green stalk felt like a middle finger. The onion was rolling its eyes at the back of my fridge. The spinach was dregs at the bottom of the bag leftover from an Asian noodle soup and the breadcrumbs are the product of being unable to finish the loaf I made for the last blog post. More or less every ingredient was begging to be used. So I did. And it was delicious. So there.

For that reason I will say this recipe is probably the most flexible I have written in a very long time. Everything here is interchangeable – the colours of the pepper, the colour of the onion etc – the only thing that should remain constant is that it is a meat fried in vegetables combined with a sauce and baked with breadcrumbs. Go nuts with the details.

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Start by making your breadcrumbs. Personally, I like making my own but I understand not everyone is a freak like me. If you’re making your own, process together some stale bread with some fresh thyme, grated Parmesan and some lemon zest. If you’re using crumbs from a tub – which I also have no shame in using – just add the three remaining ingredients to the tub and give it a stir.

Preheat the oven to 220C. In a large frying pan, heat some olive oil before throwing in some red onion and red pepper and softening in the pan with some salt. Grate in two garlic cloves and stir for about 3 minutes until everything has softened and is exuding its moisture. Ew, but that’s it.

Add some chopped chicken breast – cut it up as roughly as you like, I prefer meaty chunks in this dish – and continue to cook until the chicken has lost its pink colour. Be careful your onions don’t brown. If you feel them starting to catch and brown, add a tablespoon of water to the pan. Give a generous throw of sea salt and a grind of black pepper.

Drain a can of borlotti beans – any pulse will do mind, if you’re struggling – and throw them in before pouring in a can of chopped tomatoes. Bring the pan to a bubble before adding the chopped spinach and some more sea salt and lower the pan to a slight simmer. Pour the contents of the pan carefully into a roasting dish. Allow to cool slightly. While it’s cooling, add the breadcrumbs to a dry pan and put over a high heat, tossing regularly so that the breadcrumbs crisp up.

Scatter the toasted breadcrumbs over the chicken bake evenly so that it coats the top before transferring to the hot oven for about 10 or so minutes just to ensure everything is piping hot and that the breadcrumbs go golden on the top, providing the bake with some much needed crunch.

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I won’t lie and say that this dish is entirely original as it has taken form in my kitchen in many different capacities with different meats and different pulses etc however the consistent thing with this dish is the order everything is cooked in and the method. I highly recommend you play about with this and make as many changes to it as you want however don’t be alarmed by your reliance on it.

Once you have cooked this once, you will find yourself leaning on it again and again as a means of using up ingredients and providing a hearty meal of an evening.

And ignore the repetitive eye rolls. They love it really.

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