There’s no way around it, dumplings aren’t photogenic, but let me reassure you that this casserole is absolutely, totally delicious! Note to self the next time I make it: don’t tweak a thing.
2 leeks, washed and finely sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
4 large carrots, peeled and in pieces
1 clove garlic, peeled but whole
3-4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 rashers of bacon, chopped
a heaped dessertspoon of cornflour, sprinkled with thyme, paprika, a little salt and pepper
a sherry glassful of Marsala
a pint of chicken stock
100g self-raising flour
a grinding of nutmeg
5 tablespoons of cold water maximum
You need a large casserole pan with a lid for this one. Sweat the leeks, onion, celery, garlic and carrots in half a teaspoon of sea salt and a big knob of butter. Keep the heat very low, and stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, quarter 200g mushrooms and fry ferociously in a separate frying pan (in butter) to brown them. Don’t stir them too often. When they are nicely golden, add to the other vegetables.
Cut your bacon and chicken into hearty-sized pieces and sprinkle with the cornflour mix. Turn over to ensure maximum coverage.
Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the frying pan (now devoid of mushrooms) and bring the heat up again. Fry the chicken and bacon until well-coloured on all sides. Now pour in a small glass of Marsala and scrape the bottom of the pan vigorously with a wooden spoon to deglaze. Let it bubble for a few more moments, then pour the whole lot into the vegetables. Add a bay leaf and a pint of chicken stock, then pop the lid on and simmer for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Before you add the dumplings to the casserole, though, taste and adjust your seasoning, and give the casserole a good stir to check that it’s not sticking. If it is sticking, it’s probably safer to finish it off in the oven.
Mix the SR flour and suet together with a decent grinding of nutmeg. Stir in just enough cold water for the mixture to bind. No need to roll into neat balls; the dumplings will take on their own shape as they cook. Just cut your dough into 8 pieces and dollop onto the top of the casserole. Put the lid on and continue to cook either on the stove-top or in the oven for 20 minutes.