The Cottage Smallholder

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Best quick and easy chicken breast recipe – cheat method


Photo: Chicken and apple

Photo: Chicken and apple

Chicken breasts are so fast and simple to convert into a meal. I once had them just sliced and grilled (broiled) for a few minutes, then popped into a toasted sandwich with mustard and mayo to make a deliciously fast supper.

The downside is that they are basically flavourless outside of their natural home in a Sunday Lunch whole roast chicken. The trick is to either marinade them beforehand or add ingredients to add some zest.

Danny here on Thu evening, giving Fiona a break after her trip to London yesterday.

I touched on this in the forum: how I cheat when concocting new recipes and this was a really superb (and maybe lucky) outcome of just such a cheat. Fiona gave it top marks and I simply blushed and nodded. It was only as I came to write up the recipe that I realised it is quite similar to this one. You may have guessed that I belong to the late and sadly departed Keith Floyd school of cooking – enjoy a tipple as you cook.

I had found two organic free range chicken breasts at a really knocked-down price late in the evening at one of our local supermarkets. Fiona had home cured some streaky (belly) bacon and the leftover fat from frying was a great base. I would not retain the watery crud that extrudes from store bought stuff. Fine to grill or fry as a crispy topping but discard the leftover muck.

Ingredients for 3 or 4 portions (we ate the lot between the two of us):

The weights are approximate. You cannot go wrong, within reason.

2 chicken breasts, uncooked – ours weighed 0.36 kg – sliced into strips 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick

1 medium cooking apple – ours was 120 gms before peeling – peeled, cored and chopped reasonably finely

70 gms of bacon for a topping – we used home cured slices, chopped into one inch (2.5 cm) strips

1 small onion – ours was 70 gms before peeling – peeled and chopped finely

1 or 2 cloves of garlic – ours was 5 gms before peeling – peeled and chopped finely

4 tbsp of fruit juice or syrup – we had some pear juice distilled from cores and peelings so I used that

1 tbsp olive oil (only if you are pan-frying the bacon)

1 tbsp honey

2 points of star anise (i.e. 2 bits broken off a star)

Quarter tsp of dried dill (optional)

Quarter tsp of freeze dried tarragon (optional)

4 leaves of fresh rosemary finely chopped (optional – we have it growing in the garden)


Preheat your oven to 220c / (200c fan)

If frying bacon, do it now until nicely crisped. (Optional: pour 1tbsp olive oil into the pan first so that it does not stick)

When the bacon is cooked remove and keep in a warm place. Leave the fat in the pan.

If not using bacon, add 1tbsp olive oil into the pan now.

Fry the onion and garlic at medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the apple and put into an oven proof cooking dish.

Pop in the two bits on star anise some ways apart from each other.

Spread the cooked onion & garlic over that.

Add the honey and fruit juice.

Sprinkle over the dill, tarragon and rosemary (all optional)

Mix it all together

Put the dish in the oven, uncovered.

Fry the chicken strips for about 7 minutes, stirring regularly.

Remove the dish from the oven and spread the chicken over, pressing it half into the mix.

Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

We served it with couscous, made with a knob of butter and chicken stock, with some finely chopped poppadum peppers plus one finely chopped tomato mixed in.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello booklegger

    You need a fruit steamer – I have written an article about them here

  2. booklegger

    Please, can you explain distilling pear cores and peels? Sounds like a good way to reduce something I normally waste.

  3. Sounds delicious but I must have missed something – how is it cheating? Anyway thanks for sharing it with us Danny. You’re obviously an artist not a scientist. Hubby & I have a long term discussion on whether cooking is an art or a science ie do you measure/weigh everything precisely so it is repeatable and of guaranteed quality or do you ‘create’ a new dish every time by making it up as you go along. It’s always very hard when he asks ‘how much’ do I put in and I say well ‘this much’ tipping up the bottle till it feels enough! Anyway your recipe will suit me nicely. Thank you

  4. thefrenchgeraghtys

    For “good”, read “food”!!

  5. thefrenchgeraghtys

    I have a good intolerance to garlic. So many recipes use it so, where possible, I will add garlic for my husband by adding it at the end or cooking two separate dishes. Has anyone any ideas on what I could use instead of garlic? Is there a garlic substitute?!! Unfortunately, I have the same problems with all spices but am fine with black pepper and sweet spices. I cannot eat chillies, red/green/yellow peppers and so on and so forth. Sometimes I add Worcestershire sauce to spice things up a bit.

    Any suggestions gratefully received. Failing that, I will carry on leaving it out and making the dish as normal!

  6. Michelle in NZ

    Danny, this looks so good. Thanks for sharing a great idea.

  7. What a brilliantly simple idea. I’m also thinking it will work with with left over chicken from the roast we had tonight. I’ll have to think a little about substituting the honey as t’other half is allergic to it. Or maybe he’ll have to eat something else!!

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