Perfect poached chicken with horseradish & dragoncello sauce

Tell me you don't feel virtuous just looking at this? If you’re feeling under the weather, have over-indulged or simply looking for an alternative to roast chicken, then this is your dish. And you're guaranteed to leave the table feeling holier-than-thou and surprisingly full. This particular poaching technique creates the most satiny-textured chicken you've ever tasted so don’t be put off by the many stages. You can always poach the chicken in advance and assemble the rest of the dish later – this bit only takes 15 minutes or so. Depending on the season, you could also add other veg such as peas, broad beans or spinach.

Poached chicken with horseradish & dragoncello sauce

Poached chicken with horseradish & dragoncello sauce

Serves 4-6

8 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
3 sticks of celery
1 white onion, peeled and halved
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
2 bay leaves
A sprig of rosemary
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp salt
2 litres hot chicken stock
1 (previously happy) 1.5kg chicken, at room temp
4 leeks, trimmed and halved lengthways
For the dragoncello sauce
2 slices of stale white bread, ideally ciabatta, crusts removed
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 eggs
1 small clove of garlic
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 bunch of tarragon, roughly chopped
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
For the horseradish
An 8cm-piece of fresh horseradish, peeled
4 tbsp crème fraiche
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Throw 2 of the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, herbs, salt and peppercorns in a deep pan that comfortably holds the bird. Pour in the stock along with another 1 litre of boiling water and return to the boil for 15 minutes. Have a taste and check that it tastes like delicious stock, if not, add a little more salt.

Remove any giblets from inside the chicken and give it a quick wash under cold water. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Season the cavity with salt and pepper, then add the bird, breast-side down and add a little more boiling water if it is not quite covered. Bring the stock back up to the boil, then immediately (don’t let the chicken boil) turn down a simmer and, cover with a lid and leave to gently bubble for 12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid and leave the chicken to cool in the stock for 1 hour. After an hour, remove from the chicken from the stock and place in the fridge to cool (during this time, the still-pink flesh turns soft and silky).

Meanwhile, return the stock to the boil and reduce by half so that you get a lovely, intense broth.

While this is going on, make the sauces. To make the dragoncello, rip up the bread, pour over the vinegar and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a small pan of water to the boil and cook the eggs for 9 minutes until completely hardboiled. Discard (or eat) the white.

Finely chop the garlic then crush with a pinch of salt. Transfer to a bowl, then mash in the yolks with a fork and stir in the anchovies and capers. Squeeze the excess vinegar from the bread, then stir that in too, followed by the tarragon and a little pepper. Slowly stir in the oil so that it’s nicely emulsified, then adjust the seasoning and the acidity. It should be really rather perky.

To make the horseradish, finely grate it, then run your knife through it a couple of times. Stir in the crème fraiche, vinegar and oil and season with salt and pepper.

Strain the broth, discarding the old veg and herbs. Return to the pan, then bring to the boil and poach the remaining carrots and leeks for 10 minutes until just soft.

Carve the poached chicken with a knife and divide between bowls. Pour over some broth and a few carrots carrots and leeks. Allow to sit for a moment before serving to allow the chicken to warm through. Spoon over the sauces and serve.


Chicken baked in dough

This is inspired by a similar recipe by Jamie Oliver that I came across when looking for new things to do with a whole chicken. This is a really lovely way of cooking your bird as the meat gently roasts in its own juices because of its doughy confines so comes out incredibly tender and infused with the mushroom and garlic flavours. You can make this simply with chestnut mushrooms, or try upping the stakes by using the wild mushrooms available at the moment and using game such as partridge or guinea fowl. Wonderfully, this technique works with all birds, you may just need to adjust the cooking time according to the weight of your bird. You need to be quite precise, 10 minutes per 250g is a good guide and always 30 minutes resting time.

Chicken stuffed with mushrooms and baked in dough

Chicken stuffed with mushrooms and baked in dough

25g dried porcini
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
200g chestnut mushrooms or a mix of wild mushrooms such as girolles or pied de mouton, very finely chopped
A squeeze of lemon
A handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped
75g softened butter
2 kg chicken
1.75 kg plain flour

Boil a kettle and pour over the porcini, then put to one side to soak for 10 minutes.

Warm the olive oil in your largest frying pan over a medium heat and add the garlic. Cook gently for a minute, then add the bay leaves and thyme, followed by the mushrooms. Cook, stirring regularly until the mushrooms are softened and beginning to colour, about 3 minutes. 

Take off the heat for a moment. Scoop the porcini out their liquid (reserve) and finely chop. Return the mushrooms to a high heat and add the porcini and 3 tablespoons of cooking liquid. Cook briskly until the liquid evaporates, then take off the heat again, discard the bay and add a small squeeze of lemon and stir in the parsley. Spread out on a plate to cool.

While your mushrooms cool, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Place the flour in a large bowl and slowly pour in approx 750ml -1l water, incorporating it with your hands, then kneading for a moment until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Put to one side for a moment.

Once cool, have a taste of the mushrooms and season to your liking. Transfer to a bowl and mash together with the softened butter. Approaching from the back of the chicken, gently push your hand under the skin of the bird, separating the skin from the meat around the breast and the legs. Push the mushroom butter under the skin (this bit can get messy!), then tie the legs together securely with string.

Cut off a third of the dough and roll to about 25cm long. Sit the bird on top of it, then roll out the remaining bit to about 40cm and drape over the chicken. Pinch the edges together to firmly seal, then place in the oven for 1 hour 20 minutes. Remove and leave to rest for 30 minutes before cracking open the dough. Discard the dough and string, check that the chicken is cooked through, then carve up and serve. Delicious with mashed potatoes.