Sometimes I want to cook and eat simple food. Sometimes the idea of ‘nursery school food’ even is appealing. Yes, go ahead, laugh, but I’m sure you’re the same. I really LOVE food, the choosing, preparing, eating and the talking about afterwards thrills me no end. But there are those days when inspiration ebbs and all I want to do is to make something simple that delivers on nutrition and flavour but does not challenge. Chicken a la King is that sort of meal for me. I can’t stand the pale and gloopy stuff we were fed at nursery school, so I avoid the white sauce and opt for a cream reduction with just a touch of nut flour for body. It is up to you and your palate though. Truth be told I make many variations of this depending on what I have in the fridge. Today I want to use up a green pepper, but you can use any peppers of your choice. I know we munch on the green ones in salads, but most of us lack passion for this essentially immature pepper. It is not as sweet or flavourful as its vividly colourful older siblings and because of that I think it benefits from a bit of tinkering and more robust partners. I remember the first time I ate an entire green pepper as a child on a hot summer’s day, devoured it like and apple. It was juicy and refreshing. Why? Because I had just picked it in my godfather’s garden. Nothing beats homegrown.
Chicken breasts/ thighs, chopped (this meal is a great way to use up left over chicken from a roast too)
Onion, finely chopped
Peppers, sliced and chopped
Portabello mushrooms, sliced
White wine / sherry optional
Vegetable or chicken stock
A little nut flour or roux, (optional)
Salt & pepper
Heat a little olive oil in a pan. When hot, add the onions and fry until translucent, add the chopped peppers and sauté until they too turn tender. Remove from the pan and set aside. Dry fry the mushrooms until they turn golden and nutty, then add the chopped garlic for just a little while so they cook but don’t burn, remove from the pan and add to the onions and peppers. Listen to Julia Child when it comes to mushrooms – don’t crowd them in the pan or they’ll stew in their juice instead of browning. Now add some more olive oil to the pan if necessary and brown your chicken cubes if not using already cooked chicken. Once the chicken is browned, add the vegetables and a glug of wine or sherry (if using) to deglaze the pan, if not using alcohol, use a bit of water. Scrape all the tasty bits off the bottom of the pan and stir into the liquid. Add the nut flour and then the stock and allow it to cook off and evaporate. Add the cream, more than you need, allowing for evaporation and concentration. This whole process should not take long, don’t overcook it. The sauce should be luscious and rich, velvety without the weight of flour. Stir through the chopped parsley. Serve with some lovely organic rice, or as some do with pasta or even on scones. I like to top this with some fresh green herby leaves and then with some finely sliced deseeded red chilli. Allow this meal to nurture you and your family when you need a quick fix without the fuss of sophistication – relish its simplicity and warm comfort.
If you are not looking for a main meal, but want to do something with your green peppers, see the Beautiful Peppers All Dressed Up recipe for a lovely addition to a meze style meal.