Once you´ve planted a couple of artichoke plants, they seem to last for a couple of years. As long as you keep cutting the “fruit”, more keep on growing. A couple of weeks ago we cut more than we needed, so stop them from getting too big and tough and a peeled off the outer leaves to reveal the hearts, blanched them in water with lemon juice to stop them turning black and then froze what we didn´t use.
As we now have more artichokes blooming, I thought I should use up the batch from the freezer (although a tin of artichoke hearts would do just as well). I also had some chicken breasts which would go well with the artichokes in a lovely dish with a thick sauce. Neither Big Man nor I are huge fans of the chicken breast, but when you rear your own chickens for eating, you´re always going to have them!
Ingredients for this dish for two are
- One large or two small chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
- A tin of artichoke hearts or about 8 fresh ones (prepared as above), sliced into quarters
- Half a dozen medium sized mushrooms, thickly sliced
- Two fat cloves of garlic, thickly sliced
- Two cloves, ground (or about a quarter of a teaspoon of ground cloves) with about 5 peppercorns (or use half a dozen twists of freshly ground black pepper)
- Half a teaspoon of paprika
- A pinch of saffron soaked in a tablespoon of water (if you have a packet of paella spices, you can use half a packet in place of the cloves, pepper, paprika and saffron)
- Two thick slices of day old bread, crumbled roughly
- A bay leaf
- A sprig of thyme (optional)
- Olive oil
- A glass of white wine (optional) plus one for drinking while cooking (not optional in my kitchen)
Start by lightly browning the chicken in a little olive oil in a deep frying pan or a wide saucepan. Then add the garlic, artichokes and mushrooms and fry gently until the mushrooms and artichokes start to brown.
Add the spices and herbs and season with a little salt. Pour over the wine and enough water to comfortably cover everything and simmer, without a lid, for about 15 minutes.
When the liquid has reduced by about half, but is still watery, remove the herbs and then add the bread crumbs, stirring as you do this. You will simmer this for another 5 minutes stirring a couple of times. The sauce will come together and will look smoother, with some texture from the bread after a couple of minutes. You want to end up with a sauce roughly the texture of a thick gravy. If it looks too runny near the end of cooking, add another half a slice of bread. If it´s too liquid, just simmer until it gets to the consistency you want – it´s down to you! Check and adjust the seasoning, and you´re ready.
This can be prepared ahead and reheated, and takes about 40 minutes to prepare from scratch.
Delicious served either as a “spoon dish” (as they call dishes the consistency of stew which are served in bowls and eaten, as expected, with a spoon) if you prefer the sauce more liquid with bread and a side salad or with some green beans, mashed potato or rice.