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I am very slowly getting over my huge aversion to beans, much to the delight of my husband, as it apparently opens up a whole plethora of culinary opportunity. I have been skeptical, but we are gradually introducing more ‘beany’ dishes into our weekly menus. Which, I agree, is a good thing as not only are they fairly cheap to buy, they are also both filling and very good for you. I’m starting off small, mind you, so far I can just about manage cannellini beans…it may take a while to conquer the mighty kidney bean *shudder*.

Talking cannellini beans, we happened upon Nigel Slater’s wonderful book ‘The Kitchen Diaries’ a couple of weeks ago. It not only holds some great family supper ideas, but it’s also ordered through the months, so essentially you can refer to it for the perfect fare to compliment the changing seasons. This particular recipe of ‘Chicken stew and mash’ was listed under early March. It’s a very pleasing one pot dinner that we served as a lighter alternative to a Sunday roast, yet still using a whole chicken (with some lovely leeks thrown in for good measure.) The full (slightly adapted) ingredients list plus cooking method can be viewed online at ‘Everybody loves Ramen’ – a great food blog here.

To make this meal (serves four) you will need:
– olive oil (for frying)
– one large chicken (jointed)
– a can of cannellini beans (150g/drained)
– 50ml of balsamic vinegar
– Four garlic cloves (peeled)
– Four bay leaves
– a small orange (rind only)
– Two teaspoons of herbes de Provence
– Three leeks (thickly sliced)
– Mashed potatoes (to serve)

The thing I liked most about eating this was undoubtedly the freshness that comes from the orange zest, as the title suggests, making it tangy, yet still high on the comfort factor scale (which you get from most things accompanied by a generous portion of well seasoned, creamy mash). The sauce is thick and flavourful, plus with two hours cooking time, the meat is literally falling off the bone. It’s also a cunning way of getting the children to eat leeks. Certainly a keeper.

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