Chicken in Tomato Sauce

Chicken in Tomato Sauce, with home-made gnocchi

Update: Even though it’s all of 14°C (57.2°F) outside as I write this it’s been a cold, wet and miserable day. Feels more like winter already. Especially compared to a couple of weeks ago when I made this recipe and post. Then the weather was simply perfect. Anyway, today I decided to make this Chicken in Tomato Sauce again. And was sorely tempted to roast this as a cacciatore would be. As I didn’t have any fresh rosemary to hand that meant going with this on the hob again. Glad of it as this turned out beautifully.

OK, on the plate the sauce looks a tad too thick. The reason is simple: tomato sauces tend to split on the plate, which can be a nightmare to photograph. Its taste, however, was reminiscent of Med type food, without the gloriously clear blue sky weather – obviously. This time around I didn’t use up stuff lurking in my fridge and cupboard. Instead, I went with how a great tomato sauce should be. Full of flavour and vibrancy rather than fussy and overworked.

Previously: What is it about roasting meats and vegetables. I just don’t know the science behind cooking food, and the differences certain methods will have on various cuts of meat and that sort of thing. With this recipe, even though I’d adapted this to be cooked on the hob/stove several years ago, I went with partially cooking on the hob and finished it off in the oven – regardless of how warm it was over the weekend. Seriously nice weather recently. It didn’t work. Flavours were too fussy and big – bombastic, even. Yet, when I reheated this slowly with a little prepared vegetable stock on Sunday this tasted just great. OK, I might’ve trained as a chef within mostly French cuisine, years ago, but I’ve never worked as one. So, I’m still learning. Quite often the hard way. Like when I was trying to stuff courgettes/zucchini recently, a new recipe for me, that had to be roasted in the oven – no question off. Certain food stuffs have to be dealt with by using differing cooking methods, and that’s about it folks! A couple of my recipes that spring to mind are Tuna bake and Roasted turkey legs. So few ingredients in either of them. And yet, every time they’re simply divine.

Deep-fried gnocchi

Deep-fried gnocchi

This was adapted from a chicken cacciatore recipe that would be roasted in the oven (that book was about cooking differing types of poultry with no names given for the food writers. And I can’t for the life of me remember its title). Anyway, I’m going to try a version of cacciatore when days are duller and, unfortunately, cooler. That I’ll keep as simple as poss; grated onions (maybe celery, too), several whole garlic cloves in their shells, chicken pieces, can of tomatoes, bay leaf and a sprig of fresh rosemary. With, perhaps, a pinch of orange zest. I bet, as it’s going to be roasted, it’ll taste amazing. Here, it’s almost as if I have to compensate for whatever culinary reaction that roasting has on food. Therefore, more ingredients. Admittedly, I did add several things that needed to be used up. It’s not necessary to have either chillies nor bacon in this. Nice, though. So, those items I’ll put as optional within ingredients below (I’ve since cooked this again and made changes, and deleted all optionals). And, yes, I’ll be cooking this again over the weekend as I really want to try making gnocchi for the first time. Besides, I might tweak this recipe slightly – just to be sure.

Chicken in Tomato Sauce


  • rapeseed (canola) or olive oil
  • 200g (7.05 oz) x onions, peeled and  chopped
  • 1 x celery stalk, washed and chopped into small dice
  • 2 x large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 x dried bay leaves, ripped
  • 4 x large salad tomatoes, washed and cut in half
  • 500g (17.63 oz) x chicken pieces, I use leg quarters, remove skin and excess fat (discarded) and chop them into drumsticks and thighs
  • 1 x heaped dst tomato purée
  • 1/2 x lemon, rolled under both hands before extracting juice, more to personal taste
  • 1/4 x teaspoon cayenne pepper, less to personal taste
  • 200ml (0.42 US pt lqd) x water (about half used)
  • 1/2 x (organic) very low salt vegetable stock cube
  • about 4 – 8 per person x pitted black olives, cut into circles and scattered over before serving

Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.


  • Put a large heavy-based saucepan on electric heat No 3 (out of 6). When onions are ready and the pan is hot pour in enough oil to cover its base. Add the bay leaf and allow to infuse. Add the onions and stir frequently. When they start to turn a pale golden reduce heat to No 2. Add the celery and continue to fry, stirring often. When turning golden reduce heat to No 1. Push the onions to the sides, pour in a glug more oil if necessary and add the garlic. Allow several minutes for the garlic to cook out its rawness. Add the tomato purée, after stirring the garlic and pushing the mixture to the sides, and allow at least 5 minutes for its rawness to cook out, adding a glug more oil if necessary. Sprinkle over the cayenne pepper. Take off heat.
  • Add the tomatoes to a separate pan with a little oil, bay leaf and a lid. Put on heat No 2 for most of their cooking time. Remove lid after about 15 minutes and continue to pan-fry until nicely caramelised. When ready to add them to the onion mixture pour them into a fine wire metal sieve and using a stainless steel soup ladle rub them through, collecting all of the purée from underneath with a wooden spoon. Discard the remaining pulp.
  • In the same saucepan as the onions (or use a separate pan) add a little more oil on heat No 4. As the pan should be hot reduce heat to No 3 and add the prepared chicken pieces. Shake the pan often to prevent the meat from sticking to base of pan. Brown nicely on all sides, turning heat down gradually to prevent scorching. Especially as the lemon juice is to be added prior to the tomato sauce.
  • Prep the stock in a separate pan (I normally use the pan for the fresh tomatoes as I get all of that sticky delicious sediment, too).
  • When the tomatoes have been rubbed through, and the stock is ready, pour in some of the stock to thin the onion mixture a little. Then, rub the mixture through a fine wire metal sieve into the saucepan with the chicken pieces. Collect all of the purée from underneath the sieve as well.
  • When all the ingredients have been add to the chicken pieces up the heat to No 4. When at boiling point add a little of the stock and stir through before putting on a lid. Reduce heat to No 2 and simmer until chicken is thoroughly cooked, at least 40 minutes. Do keep an eye on the sauce as it can scorch. Add a little more stock if the sauce is turning too thick. The longer the chicken is cooked the better as the meat will be really tender, especially if lifted out to rest (wrap them in tin-foil).


All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Feed the Piglet:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny Hepburn

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