All things bright and beautiful

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Chicken pesto traybake

January has finally hit us. I was away in Scotland for New Year and returning later softened the blues a little but, in what has been a very grey week up until today, I’ve now got a touch of early spring fever. It won’t last of course, it’s just the weather playing a little trick with this mildly spring-like day but it has made me think of brightness and beauty and that… well it’s good for the soul.After some hearty and rich food over the Christmas and New Year period and some great meals out, that I can pepper into the blog as we approach the real vernal equinox, we have resumed our healthy regime and I thought I’d share this high colour, low maintenance dish that is in the form of a simple tray-bake. If, unlike us, you aren’t eschewing carbohydrates right now, a few sliced potatoes or sweet potatoes might bulk it out even further, but we find the beans do their job well in terms of both flavour and nutrition. In any version, the addition of some delicious crusty bread, to mop up those tasty juices, would be just the thang… if only I was allowed such a delicacy!

fullsizeoutput_1eecThese dishes are variations of those we’ve served up many times at our home in France, and while we are in the end process of saying goodbye to the house and moving on to projects new, it’s great to have those memories of breaking bread on freezing days around the old oak table, in front of a roaring fire or of sultry nights on the terrace putting the world (and the solar system for some reason) to rights after a très bon repas.

This recipe includes chicken but works equally well with some salmon fillets sat atop or as a veggie adaptation, simply leave off the chicken and add some chunky slices of sweet potato then crumble a generous serving of smoked scamorza (cheese) and some ricotta over the veggies and beans before drizzling the pesto over the cheese.

This can be prepared well in advance and stowed in the fridge ready for you to just heat the oven and pop it in later on.

Ingredients – Serves 4

4-6 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on.image4

2 tablespoons ‘good pesto

400g can of Borlotti beans, drained and rinsed

1 pack small vine tomatoes

1/2 pack fine green beans

6 stalks of tenderstem broccoliimage1

1/2 can anchovies in olive oil

1 lemon

4 or 5 garlic cloves

Salt and black pepper

Method

1. Take the pesto and rub it beneath the skin of the chicken thighs, season the chicken skin and set aside.

2. Scatter the green beans, broccoli stems, beans, garlic cloves, lemon and tomatoes on their vine into an oven proof serving dish.

3. Take the anchovies and distribute them amongst the veg in the baking dish then drizzle the remaining oil over the dish, turn the veg around a little in the oil and season with a little salt (remembering that the anchovies will give saltiness) and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

4. Nestle the chicken thighs in amongst the veg and beans and pop into the oven on 170 for about an hour, until the chicken and veg have given up they tasty juices, the chicken is tender and the skin is a wonderful golden brown. Remove the lemon slices for they have done their job, then serve – one dish to wash up and a heap of tasty goodness on a plate.

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