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Thursday 29 March 2012

Spring Chicken Pesto Stew

I have long considered pesto to be one of my favourite ingredients. I remember first trying it as a teenager for dinner, my mum made a bacon, mushroom and pesto spaghetti. It was love at first bite. Pasta has always been my favourite comfort food. When I went to University we had catered halls and for about 3 weeks I lived off of salad and cheeseburgers. I craved pasta like I never thought possible. I had spied an Italian restaurant in the tiny town centre of Egham, called Caffe Piccolo. Memory will remember this moment as me practically prostrating myself in front of my parents pleading to go there for lunch, realistically it was a far more agreeable exchange of ideas. 
Caffe Piccolo as I remember it.
I remember ordering orecchiette with sun dried tomatoes, chorizo and parmesan. I wolfed it down with such joy as you only experience when satisfying a strong craving. After that moment I knew I could not go that long without pasta again, so I began trying numerous microwavable options, to varying results. Boiling pasta in a microwave is a lot more time consuming and frustrating operation than anybody could have imagined, luckily as a student studying arts subjects I had time on my side.

Returning to present day, last weekend I decided to give a new dish a go. Ever since I received a subscription to Good Food Magazine for Christmas 2 years ago I try to attempt at least one new dish a month. Flicking through this month's this Spring pesto chicken stew dish caught my eye, with my new Le Creuset casserole dish yet to be used, surely this was a no brainer?

You can find the recipe online here I tweeked it a little by adding spinach, instead of leeks and taking out the onion. Plus with the dumplings I used grand padano instead of parmesan and mixed seeds instead of pine nuts.
Ready to go in the oven to cook the dumplings
The Finished Article
I have to say this has got to be one of my favourite new dishes for months. Obviously as I was cooking for just Rich and I, I scaled back the mix to pretty much half of everything and still had enough for lunch and dinner again the next night. Chunky bread is perfect for mopping up excess sauce but the recipe also recommends mash, I personally would find that a little filling.  Definitely a good recipe for an informal dinner party or lazy weekend meal. It would easily be made vegetarian by substituting the chicken and bacon for potatoes and parsnips or any solid root vegetables. The dumplings were the crowning glory of the dish,  they soaked up all the pesto juices and weren't over powered by the grand padano. So our friends should watch our, you may be getting this for dinner very soon!

Incidentally, when researching for this blog post I discovered ten years after my first visit, Caffe Piccolo is no longer open for business in Egham, but apparently still has branches in Farham and Chiswick. Pop in for lunch if you find yourself nearby, I remember it being rather nice. Visit their website here.


  1. Caffe Piccolo has now sadly closed. Fortunately, the same people have opened a restaurant in Staines called Caffe Gondola, which is just as marvellous.

  2. Alas...I used to like it there :( Oooh good tip, although not sure when I will next find myself in Staines but I will keep it in mind! Thank you!