CHICKALEEKAKA (serves 4)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced small
500g leeks, sliced small
half a tsp white pepper
a tiny pinch of sea salt
half a tsp of dried thyme
100ml (or thereabouts) white wine
20g fresh dill, finely chopped
3 large eggs
250g mature cheddar cheese, grated.
For the Bechamel :
3 tbsp of salted butter
4 tbsp of plain flour
a generous pinch of white pepper
a tiny pinch of sea salt
350ml of skimmed milk
2 tbsp double cream
half a tsp Dijon mustard
half a tsp of fresh grated nutmeg
20g parmesan cheese, grated
50g mature cheddar cheese, grated.
1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and once hot, add the chicken. Spread the chicken across the pan to cook evenly, as it won't take long, being such small pieces. Toss the chicken a few times to make sure every side is coloured - but don't allow it to turn golden.
2. Once the chicken is coloured but not cooked through, add the leeks and seasoning. Continue to fry until the leeks are softened. You will need to toss and stir regularly to prevent the pan contents from colouring further.
3. Add the wine and continue to toss and stir until the wine has all but evaporated and the pan is almost dry.
4. Decant the chicken & leeks into a large pyrex bowl and set aside to cool for 5 minutes or so.
5. Once cooled, add the dill, crack the eggs in and add the grated cheese. Mix and stir until everything is evenly distributed. Set aside, while you make the Bechamel sauce.
6. In a medium pan, set the butter to melt and add the flour, salt and pepper. Allow the flour to cook out gently for 3 or 4 minutes, but don't allow it to brown.
7. Add a little of the milk and stir it through. The mix will set up quickly, so take if off the heat and keep adding a little milk, then stirring - you will probably need to swap to a hand whisk - until you have a saucy textured mix which is somewhat wetter than you would require. Add the cream, mustard and nutmeg and whisk them through, then put the pan back on the heat and keep stirring or whisking as it heats through to simmering point. If the mix becomes too thick, add a little more milk - but not too much, or it will quickly become too thin. You're after a consistency reminiscent of thick custard.
8. Take your baking dish (I used a small roasting dish that I lined with non stick silver foil) and decant the chicken & leek mixture into it, making sure to push it into the corners and level off the top surface.
9. Pour the Bechamel over the top and again, encourage it to form a smooth layer.
10. Sprinkle first the parmesan, then the cheddar, over the top so that the surface is entirely coated. This will form the gorgeous cheesy crust - too little cheese and the crust will be patchy at best.
11. Place into a pre-heated oven at 180degC/350degF/Gas4 for 30-35 minutes or until the top is a gorgeous golden brown.
12. Remove from the oven and allow to settle for 5-10 minutes before serving.