The idea of sitting at a white linen-clad table with flickering candles, fine silver and Zalto glassware isn’t achievable every day of the week. Indeed, with kids in tow, all of the above are generally off the menu. True, you can invest in a babysitter and hot foot it off in search of a Michelin star or two, but it’s hardly practical on a tri-weekly basis. That said, neither is eating fish-finger and ketchup sandwiches every night of the week, even if you do wash them down with a mug of Sancerre.
Having four children in the household has led me to desperate measures and, for my own sanity, I have stumbled across a few dishes that the children will eat without negative comments (praise indeed) and suit an end of day glass of wine extremely well.
The beauty of this recipe is you can fiddle with it to accommodate any small picky eaters. For example, the goat’s cheese can be replaced by almost any soft cheese, the courgettes omitted and the olives strategically placed to one side. Served simply with boiled new potatoes, rice or pasta, you can sit back to enjoy that glass of wine, safe in the knowledge that everyone has been well fed. The recipe serves 4 adults or a family of 6, although, if there are any teenagers involved, I would suggest doubling it.
Chicken with goats cheese, crispy sourdough crumbs, courgettes, red peppers & olives
4 chicken breasts, cut in half through the centre to give you two thinner pieces the same size.
250g goat’s cheese cut into 8 slices
4 thick slices of day-old bread (sourdough or similar, although even sliced will do at a push) whizzed into breadcrumbs
2 courgettes sliced into coin-sized slices
2 red peppers de-seeded and sliced into thick strips
1 red or white onion topped, tailed and sliced into strips similar in size to the peppers
400ml tin of cherry tomatoes (chopped plum tomatoes will do)
1 clove garlic – crushed with a little salt
A couple of handfuls of pitted olives (black or green)
Fresh basil leaves (optional)
Salt and pepper
Olive or vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 180°C about half an hour before you want to eat.
Heat a glug of oil in a frying pan and once hot, add your onions, courgettes and peppers quickly stir-frying to get some colour. Add the garlic and shake the pan around for about 60 seconds (don’t brown it or it will turn bitter), then add the tomatoes and simmer on a lowish heat to reduce a little. Season and then chuck the whole lot into a gratin dish, scatter with a few olives and some basil if you which.
Layer the chicken on top of the vegetables before placing two pieces of goat’s cheese on each. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs to cover the cheese and the chicken – it doesn’t matter if a little goes into the tomato mixture but try to protect the cheese as best you can or it may mysteriously melt away. Place the tin foil lightly over the dish and pop in the oven for 20 minutes or until piping hot, and the chicken is cooked through. Remove the foil and return to the oven just to turn the breadcrumbs golden and crunchy (a few minutes under the grill is perfect).
Serve with aforementioned potatoes or perhaps a green salad and your favourite Pinot Noir. It is also best served with disposable paper napkins; in my experience, tomato-based sauces, children and white linen should rarely be mixed.
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