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Rich Free Range Chicken Casserole


Although the calendar tells me that it’s Spring, the wind that has been whipping around the village says otherwise. So something warming and sustaining was needed for dinner. Leo, our local butcher, has wonderful free range chickens, and as they’ve been able to exercise, their bones are strong, heavy and ideal to enrich the sauce in a slow cooked casserole.

Ingredients Serves 4

1 large chicken, jointed, your butcher will do this for you
150g dried cannelloni beans
50ml olive oil, plus some more for frying
50ml balsamic vinegar
3 bay leaves
the pared rind of a small orange
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 medium leeks
2tsp herbes de Provence


Two things you need to do the night before.

You will need to soak the cannelloni beans in cold water overnight. Also place the chicken joints in a dish and pour over the olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar. Now tuck in the bay leaves, garlic cloves and the strips of pared orange, scatter over the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Leave in a cool place overnight.

Firstly, bring a pan of unsalted water to the boil and boil the cannellini beans for forty minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200c. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, add the chicken pieces, shaking off the marinade, and fry until golden brown. If you try and fry them in the oil from the marinade they will spit at you because of the vinegar. Transfer the golden chicken pieces to a deep casserole dish and add the drained beans.

Using the same oil, fry the leeks gently so they soften but don’t colour, add the garlic cloves and the remaining marinade, the rest of the balsamic vinegar and about a litre of water. Bring all this up to boiling point, salt it generously and pour it over the chicken. Finally add the orange peel and the bay leaves from the marinade, cover the casserole and place in the oven.

It will need about two hours in the oven, and you will need to check half way through the cooking time that the chicken is still submerged. Season to taste, certainly salt and black pepper and maybe a little more balsamic vinegar if you feel it’s needed.
The sauce from this dish cries out to be poured over creamy mashed potatoes, enjoy.