Eating Away the Winter Chill

The ultimate comfort food: chicken 'n' dumplings

The ultimate comfort food: chicken ‘n’ dumplings

In this, the first weary week of December when we are all desperately craving our Christmas break, we all seem to be divided into two camps: those who have the sniffles and those who are trying to avoid catching the sniffles as best they can.  In our smoggy city with the recycled air circulating through our offices and the incredibly close proximity to our fellow Londoners on our public transport, it is inevitable that we will all end up with at least one cold during the winter months despite our attempts to evade the dreaded lurgy. In the depths of winter, a sneeze on a crowded train might generate the same reaction as pulling a pin from a hand grenade.

Of course, hot drinks and bed rest are the best remedy for a cold, but I have two other things I can’t live without: Lucozade and chicken ‘n’ dumplings. When laid out on the couch, coughing and making a general nuisance of myself, I will often send Ollie out for six bottles of Original Lucozade (never flavoured) and a whole chicken. Once the Lucozade has kicked in and I have mustered the energy to move, I head to the kitchen to make a huge pot of chicken ‘n’ dumplings: the ultimate in comfort food.

Chicken ‘n’ dumplings is exactly what it says: a brothy stew made with vegetables, white wine, and all of the joints of a chicken, topped with pillowy dumplings.  It is thought that chicken contains an enzyme that is effective at breaking up mucus, which goes to explain why chicken noodle soup is given the famous moniker ‘Jewish penicillin’ and why some studies have shown chicken soup to be more effective at treating symptoms of the common cold than some over-the-counter remedies.  After an hour in the oven, it will fill your kitchen with a smell that will alone make you feel better. If you can find somebody kind enough to bring you a chicken, you’re all set.

Chicken ‘n’ Dumplings

  • 1 whole chicken
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 slices smoked back bacon
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • ¾ tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 180ml dried white wine
  • 350ml chicken stock
  • 350ml water
  • 125g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 150ml single cream

Preheat the oven to 200ºc / 400ºf / gas 6.

Joint the chicken into 10 pieces (two drumsticks, two thighs, two wings and two breasts, each halved) and season well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and brown the chicken pieces, in batches if necessary. Set aside on a plate.

In the same pan, cook the vegetables and bacon for around 10 minutes on a medium heat until the bacon is brown and the vegetables are tender. Return the chicken to the pan.  Add the wine, turn up the heat and let it bubble away until reduced by a third. Add the stock and water and bring to the boil.  Transfer the contents of the pan to a large casserole dish, cover with a lid and cook in the oven for one hour.

Make the dumplings by combining the flour, baking powder and cream until a soft dough forms. Remove the casserole from the oven, divide the dumpling dough into eight balls and nestle them among the chicken pieces. Return the casserole to the oven, uncovered, and cook for a further 10-12 minutes until the dumplings are puffed up and brown on top.

Adapted from a recipe by Gwyneth Paltrow. Serves four.

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