Hearty chicken casserole with dates & olives

New ideas for chicken are always welcome, and this one’s a real winner, especially when accompanied by buttery, garlic-enhanced mashed potato. Here’s a delicious winter warmer that’s guaranteed to earn the cook heaps of praise.

Hearty chicken casserole with dates & olives
Photo: FJ Potgieter Styling: Jill Nowers

To make this meal for four, you will need:

For the chicken

  • 1 large broiler fowl
  • 1 onion
  • 5 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 45ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1ℓ homemade chicken stock (or made from cubes)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Zest of half an orange
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 4 sprigs each of thyme and oreganum
  • 15 dates
  • 20 brined Cape olives

For the mashed potatoes

  • 1,2kg of potatoes
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 90g butter
  • 180ml milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Remove the pips from the olives and dates. Section the fowl into drumsticks, thighs, wings attached to one-third of the breast, and the remaining two-thirds breast sections. Peel and thinly slice the onion.

Crush, peel and mince the garlic. Using a zesting tool, collect the zest from half an orange and half a lemon. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Select a large, heavy-based frying pan, pour in the olive oil, and bring this up to medium heat on the hob. Season the chicken pieces with salt and black pepper, then let them sizzle in the hot oil skin-side down for 10 minutes, then on the other side for 10 minutes.

Transfer the pieces from the frying pan to an ovenproof casserole dish and fit the lid.

Add the bacon to the frying pan and let it cook at medium heat in the pan juices with the onion until the latter is soft and translucent. Lower the heat a little, and pour in the stock, garlic, herbs, olives, dates and zest, plus half a teaspoon of black pepper.

Let this simmer away until it reduces to two-thirds of the volume. Pour this over the browned chicken in the casserole dish, and cover with foil and the lid. Cook it in the oven for 45 minutes.

While this is going on, peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Mince the peeled garlic. Cover with water and bring the pot to a rolling boil. Fade the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes.

Drain well. Then, with the mashing tool of your choice, mash the potatoes and garlic together. Heat the milk and stir it into the mash, adding the butter.

Dinner time. Dump the herbs and skim off excess chicken fat. Place a serving of the garlic mash in the middle of each warmed plate and arrange a piece or two of the cooked chicken on top. Pour a couple of spoons of casserole juice over the meal.

Summon the family to dinner and await the accolades.

David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.