17 April 2013

The best chicken casserole

Chicken is such a versatile meat. It's not too heavy, most children seem to like it and it will easily make up into soups, casseroles, schnitzels, finger food and curries, and who doesn't love a good, old-fashioned roast chicken with vegetables and gravy.  We buy free range chicken from Aldi. It's not expensive and it tastes good. I've bought other free range and organic chicken but I always come back to Aldi because I haven't found anyone to match their quality and price. Generally, we have two or three frozen chickens in the freezer. They're handy to keep in case visitors arrive out of the blue or if we need to have a few pre-cooked meals on hand in the freezer.

This dish is really versatile. I make it as a casserole but by adding more chicken stock or water, along with ½ cup barley or lentils, you can turn it into a hearty soup. Served with homemade herb dumplings, it makes the ideal winter warmer. Served with rice and salad, it makes the perfect autumn or spring evening meal.

Let's call it Down to Earth Chicken. If you eat it all on the first day the sauce is delicious and complex because it's cooked with bones and real stock, but like all dishes cooked in a sauce, it will improve on the second day. This recipe calls for chicken stock or chicken bone broth. I usually keep this in the freezer in one litre/quart containers. I make it with the bones left from roast chicken or when I bone a whole chicken.

Bone broth/chicken stock
Chop the bones with a cleaver or cut them with poultry shears, that allows more marrow to be released. Adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the broth will help draw out more minerals from the bones. You can add vegetables, such as onion, leek, carrots or celery, in with the bones for extra taste and vitamins, but that's optional. Bring the bones to the boil and then turn down and simmer for two to three hours, or add them to the slow cooker and cook on low for 24 hours. Remove any scum should it develop. Allow it to cool, add it to your containers and freeze, or store in the fridge for up to 48 hours. The stock should develop a jelly effect when it's cold. This is a good sign it's full of nutrients. You can cook the bones twice and get two portions of stock. I find if I try for a third time, the flavour doesn't come through.

Ingredients for the chicken casserole
  • Start with a whole chicken, defrosted or fresh OR about 1.5kg/3.3 lbs chicken pieces
  • ½ cup plain flour seasoned well with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of paprika
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced finely
  • herbs - what's in the garden or the fridge? Either parsley, sage, chives, thyme or oregano would be good in this. Go with what you have on hand. Whatever it is, chop it finely, add most to the dish but leave a sprinkling to be added just before serving.
  • 1 litre/quart homemade chicken stock or chicken bone broth. 

  1. You can either cut the chicken in half or in pieces. You don't want to serve the chicken on the bones but you do want to cook it with the bones. If you debone the chicken, include the bones in with the flesh and remove them later.
  2. Coat the chicken all over with the seasoned flour.
  3. Add a small amount of olive oil to the pan and fry the chicken until it's brown. You don't want to cook the chicken, just develop the flavour and a good colour.
  4. Add the vegetables and brown them for a few minutes.
  5. Add the herbs.
  6. Pour in the chicken stock, stir the chicken and vegetables to incorporate the stock.
  7. Bring to the boil and then place the covered dish in a slow oven on about 180C/350F for about 1½ hours, or cook in the slow cooker.
The chicken will be ready when it's tender and the sauce has thickened. Serve with mashed potato, rice or herb dumplings.

Ingredients for herb dumplings
  • 2 cups of self raising flour OR 2 cups of plain flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder added
  • salt and pepper
  • Rub into the flour about two tablespoons of softish butter. Rub the butter in with your finger tips, just like you would when making scones, until it resembles breadcrumbs
  • Chopped parsley, chives or the green tops of spring onions
  • Add enough water to make a firm dough.
Forms small balls and drop them into the casserole and put the lid back on. They will take about 15 minutes to cook so if you're going to add them, do so 20 minutes before the end of your casserole cooking time.

Feeding the baby
Babies thrive on this sort of nourishing food and it will make food preparation easier for you if the baby eats what the family is eating. If you're already feeding your older baby a variety of fruits and vegetables, this meal would be a good one to introduce at around 9 months. Take a small portion - about two or three tablespoons full out of the pot - making sure you have small amounts of chicken, vegetables and sauce. Cut the chicken into very small pieces and mash the vegetables. Make sure there are no big chunks and the baby will probably love this food as much as the older members of the family do.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do. Apart from portioning the chicken, it's very straight forward, even for new cooks. It freezes well so it's a good dish to make up in advance to serve up on those busy nights when you need just a bit of extra help. If you make it, let me know what you think or post about it on your own blog and send me the link. I think this is a real winner, I hope you do too.



  1. This sounds wonderful. Thank you for the recipe. I agree that it's much easier when the baby eats what everyone else is eating; mine would have loved this dish when they were babies and I'm sure they'd enjoy it now as well.

  2. Looks delicious! Will have to give it a go. Our daughter always eats what we do and I find she will try something she wouldn't otherwise eat if she has a chance to mimic us. Lead by example, works for us!

  3. I love the idea of more stews and soups, I do love that about this time of year! The best part about this winter is that it's the first where I've been making an effort to eat good, sustainable meat!

  4. Yum and more yum! And easy too - I like the idea of using the bones to extract more minerals and make it extra good!

  5. Hi Rhonda
    thank you for this simple and nutritious recipe, I am always looking for meals that freeze easy, I put a single serve in a takeaway container with rice and veges.
    This saves energy (electricity/gas and personal) as we are not cooking just for two every night plus it is very convenient.
    have a good day

  6. Fantastic recipe shall give it a go my family eat pretty much all sorts even my 2 year old but my oldest daughters boyfriend is often here for tea and he is a very bad eater ( she is 22 ) and I find if he won't eat it or try it my son 10 will not eat it or give it a go so this recipe sounds like a winner will let you know .

    Linda Ann

  7. Perfect timing! I took one of our homegrown chickens from the freezer this morning and was wondering how to cook it to make it go a long way. As the weather cools and the number and types of veg in the garden changes, I'm looking for different things to cook. I think my kids will love this one!

  8. I have made a very similar chicken stew for many years....I think Mum passed it on but I can't quite remember....I like to add a little barley and sometimes a can of lentils if I need to make it go a little further!
    I always do dumplings with beef stew but never thought to do with the chicken stew which is odd isn't it? Will do that from now on!
    Thanks for sharing your recipe Rhonda....I do so love this time of year...just makes me want to cook something hearty each night....last night was pumpkin and spinach cannelloni! Have a lovely Wednesday x

  9. Chicken stew/casserole/pot pie are some of our family's favourite comfort foods that are most often requested over any other dish. Yours looks EXTRA yummy :) I've tried to make dumplings many times but they always turn out gluey... I'll be sure to try your recipe and I'll let you know if they turn out! I'd be thrilled if they do :)

  10. Aldi has just opened up in our town today, so DH informed me, so I will be having a wander through there tomorrow and see what else they stock besides yummy chicken :). I've been slowly building up a store of frozen meals by cooking double and I've never thought to simmer the bones twice for double the stock so that will be something I will do now.
    Cheers, Robyn xo

  11. HI Rhonda,
    Thank you for the recipe..i have tried the other one where you put paprika, mushroom inside it and my family love it. Will definitely try this Down to earth chicken casserole. I have to start to learn to make my own stock as well. i generally won't use it in my dishes since i don't know how to make one.

    Thanks again.

  12. Hello Rhonda,
    the casserole looks delicious! You're very lucky to get free range chicken at Aldi. As you probably know, Aldi is a German company and here in Germany every town/city has at least one Aldi market. But: the chicken they sell here is definetely not free range. Strange...
    Best wishes from the South of Germany. Heike.

  13. I love these sort of meals. Would you believe I have a chicken hater in my house? Chicken bones are rarely thrown away and are converted to broth. I am hankering for soup now.

  14. Chicken and dumplings is one of the most requested meals around here and you reminded me I haven't made it in a while! I've thickened mine at the end before and not browned the chicken first. Your way seems better so I will give it a try!

  15. I just love it when you post your recipes as they remind me of my childhood and the cooking I want my kids to remember, maybe one day you can add more recipes as I for one will be cooking this one for my boys tomorrow night, there is no better feeling then feeding and nourishing your little people with foods cooked from scratch like my grandma did (strangley enough my mother never shared her recipes :( Thank you!

  16. Yum. I've been looking for more slow cooker recipes. This one is going on next week's menu plan. I love that you have included feeding it to the baby too!

  17. This morning I was lucky and bought a heap of bones at a great reduction. At present mum is converting lamb left overs into a barley broth. When that is done I shall dig out the crockpot and start making stock again.

  18. Hi Rhonda, I am made the chicken stock in my slow cooker last night (very first time I've made my own, as I kept the chicken bones from Saturday nights Roast Chicken) to do this but wasn't sure I would bother and then then your post came out yesterday so it was perfect timing.......OMG the stock smelt fantastic and I've now got the whole chicken recipe cooking in the slower cooker and we will have it tomorrow night for dinner (day after cooking it). We have football training so it's the quick toasted turkish bread with ham tonight before we race out the door. Will let you know how we go and I know my kids will love it. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

  19. I love the 'feeding the baby' portion of this post because that is how I have always done things, here. What a nourishing, lovely recipe... MMM! I want to eat at your house, Rhonda! :)

  20. We also prefer the Aldi chickens. Thank-you for the recipe.

  21. Maureen O'RourkeApril 18, 2013 3:09 pm

    Made the Chicken Casserole last night and it was delicious. Remains are stored in the freezer for next time. Thanks for the recipe.

  22. Thanks for sharing your recipe, Rhonda!! Fairly close to how I have done mine for years too...however, had not known you could get broth from the bones twice, nor had I considered cutting the bones up more...but it makes sense!!

    Sometimes when my arthritis hurts too much, I take a product I found at the health food store, called FLEX-Able...and it works great!! Funny thing is, the main active ingredient is chicken collagen!! Imagine that...we CAN make it as you describe here I would think!! IF we ate the "old fashioned way", as you describe here, which is how our moms and grandmas did it, we might be healthier too...and wealthier too!
    Elizabeth in VA

  23. Aldi are always my first stop when shopping. Mostly Australian fruit and veg and simple choices. (No, I'm not on the payroll!) However, the centre isles are the killers. Those specials sometimes are hard to walk past. Joy

  24. I love casserole weather! I made Matthew evans's chicken, leek and oat soup from his real food companion for lunch today - it is a wonderfully comforting and nutritious-feeling meal! Lots of leftovers, too: enough for a meal in the freezer and some leftovers in the fridge for the next couple of days. Simple food is very satisfying to make and to eat.

    It's great that you're well enough for a return to blogging basics - thanks for the recipe!



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