Braised Chicken and Cannellini Beans with Artichoke and Leek

I had grand plans for this dish. I had visions of placing the lion’s share of it into methodically labelled tupperware  and embarking on the ‘Winter is coming’ process of stocking of the freezer.

A nesting woman and a label maker is a dangerous combination.

I present to you exhibit a)

And yet, it never made it that far. It didn’t make it that far because after I’d portioned out half of it for two of us, scraped the bottom of my bowl and made a quick pit stop to the kitchen to get more water, I returned to find a very different state of affairs. (Ok, I lie. I wasn’t going for more water. I was leaving because I’m not sure that Game of Thrones is the right sort of box set for a heavily pregnant woman to be devouring. Now I’m pleased to say we’re done. We’ve survived the #RedWedding. I’m no longer haunted at night by fears of what’s going to happen next to Theon next. And now I plan on watching only pleasant things, possibly about rainbows, butterflies and the sweet smells of a newborn’s head).

My taste in television might be off, but my instinct of combining the pliant textures of cannellini beans with fennel and leek  was sound. I had a niggling fear that perhaps this braise might prove a little bland; a passable plate of food for a harried new- mum who just wants something to heat up and eat with one hand, but perhaps not blog-worthy.

But I was wrong. There’s something magical that happens when you combine marinated artichokes with parmesan.  They both share a faint murkiness and a twang of intrigue-  it’s  mild acid and umami melded together into a mystical union.

The artichokes here came from a nifty jar of artichoke paste I picked up from a local Italian providore; I had contemplated using it as a simple sauce for a roast chicken or in panini sandwiches with roast mushrooms, spinach and provolone. Yet if you haven’t got any as a jump start, the same flavour and texture could easily be crafted by taking a stick blender to four marinated artichoke hearts.

The cannellini beans provided the strapping substance at the base of it all; a slower-carb substitute to risotto (though I’m sure these flavours would also work just as well with aborio rice, farro, or pearl barley). The chicken is a lovely textural counterpoint- though I’m also certain the dish wouldn’t suffer if it took a strictly vegetarian route.

I found such pleasantry in the way the leeks and the fennel melted together- and not just because you’ve also avoided the tearful faff of having to slice any onions. The large handfuls of baby spinach over the top provide a ‘free gift with purchase’ salad- you can fold them through so they soften into the stew like a rumpled garland of green, or you can keep them separate for a bit of light relief. And unlike a braised beef or lamb, this one takes less than an hour from fridge-plate.

If I was serving it for a crowd I’d start with a simple platter of marinated olives with orange, garlic and chilli radishes with bread, salt and butter and quail eggs with oregano salt.  I’d probably follow it up with something as restrained as a slice of still-warm Dorset Apple Cake, with a splodge of brown sugar creme fraiche.

That’s a menu to file away for another time. As is the notion of reheating some of this to eat one handed while I’m constrained to the couch with a wee one in tow.

This dinner never made it to the frosty reserves of the kitchen, or to the mouths of friends. It failed  because when I came back from the kitchen I found the serving dish nearly empty. The Hungry One then  looked up sheepishly. ‘Were you hoping to save some of this?’ he asked, fork, half poised in an upwards ascent.

‘Sorry. It was really good’.

Lucky it’s a doddle to make. So the plan for the day now involves making one batch more so I can return to my quest.  Game of Thrones may be over for a spell-  and the sun is out in Sydney- but I still have a feeling that winter is coming.

Braised Chicken and Cannellini Beans with Artichoke and Leek

Serves 4


2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large fennel/ 1 medium fennel, thinly sliced
1 leek, top and stem discarded, halved, rinsed and sliced into slim half moons
2 medium garlic cloves/ 1 large garlic clove peeled and thinly sliced/crushed
6 chicken thighs (approx 600 grams) cut into chunks the size of a matchbook
1 cup of chicken stock
1x 400 gram tin of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp of artichoke puree (or 3-4 marinated artichokes, pureed)
2 large handfuls of baby spinach
40 grams of parmesan, grated
Black pepper to taste

Here’s how we roll

1) Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom of a Dutch oven and place on a medium heat. Add the sliced fennel, leek and garlic and sautee for 7-10 minutes, until softened.

2) Remove the tangle of softened vegetables with a slotted spoon.

3) Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom of the pan and brown the chicken.

4) Add the stock and scrape up any flavoursome bits that have clung to the bottom of the pan. Return the softened vegetables to the pan. Add the drained beans and artichoke puree and stir to combine.

5) Place the lid on the pot and cook at a low simmer (just a gentle blurble) for 35 -40 minutes.

6) Finish the dish with fresh baby spinach, shaved parmesan and black pepper to taste. Stir to combine so both the spinach and the cheese melt into the remainder of the braise.


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