Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Baby it's cold outside: Butternut Squash, chicken and barley casserole

It's snowed. Hurrah. I am over the prettiness in record time this year (without nary a snowball fight nor even a snoman) owing to this stupid *insert swearing here* migraine which is now on its sixth week of hanging around. However, the fact that I would miserably cocoon myself in my duvet and hibernate until spring arrives doesn't help M, who needs to eat. As I *suppose* do I. This means that I got up on my steps (yes, I'm that short) and got the slow cooker out of the top of the cupboard. Casserole it is.

I like casserole done in the slow cooker for lots of reasons. You can chuck stuff in, first thing in the morning and when you get home, shazam! Dinner is ready. Pretty much infallible, you can chuck most inseason ingredients in the dish, add some stock and then there you are, casserole. Increase your veggies, to make it healthier, to up the comfort factor add some philly cheese, double cream, or even Greek yoghurt towards the end of cooking.

This is a favourite recipe of mine, based on a long lost recipe card from a supermarket. In fact I have to tell you that I have no idea if it resembles the original any longer. There is plenty you could do differently, and if you don't have a slow cooker it transfers beautifully to a hob on a low heat or an oven. If I wanted to be fancy (as in serve it up to anyone other than myself and M) I'd flour and brown the chicken off in a frying pan first. I always serve this with greens, steamed lightly. This recipe easily serves 6 and it freezes beautifully.

Pantry casserole

350g chicken thigh fillets, chopped into bite size pieces and either, floured and browned off in a pan, or thrown, sleepily into the slow cooker
1 Butternut squash, peeled and diced (although that said, as my wrist - yes, still broken - wouldn't let me get a knife through it I chopped it up into siz pieces and put those through the food processor)
4 big leeks, sliced into pound coin thicknesses
750ml(ish) chicken stock - either from a leftover roast, or a stock cube. Just watch your salt if it's a cube
Half a mug (about 100g) of barley
150g boursin garlic and herb soft cheese
Salt and pepper

Prep your veggies, and chicken and put these in the slow cooker.
Cover with the stock
Add the barley and season with salt and pepper
Cook on high for about 4 hours, then add the cheese, and stir in, and cook for another 2 hours on low

This results in soft, yielding meat, sweet vegetables and a slightly creamy gravy. The perfect dinner for when it's cold outside *belts*

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