One of my favourite aspects of The Writing Retreat is the food. Each evening is a relaxed, convivial dinner party with friends gathered around the big table in Rosemerryn’s high ceilinged main room; candles, wine and three courses, followed by port and chocolates by the fire. We love to prepare and share good food. Guests are invited to help us create and serve one evening meal during their week’s stay with us. All recipes and ingredients are provided and we act as ‘head cook’ to keep the kitchen running smoothly. It’s fun and a great way to get to know each other and work together.
We have devised the menus by pooling our own favourites; the dishes we would serve up for friends and family at home but with a few twists to make them extra special. The one I have been asked about most often is the Creamy Chicken Tarragon, which we serve up on the last night. I call it Anna’s Chicken because I learned the recipe from my friend Anna. She may have invented it; I only wrote it down when we decided to serve it at the retreat. Until then I had simply carried it around in my head. It’s easy to make for larger numbers and absolutely delicious.
So as a sort of early Christmas present from The Writing Retreat, here is the recipe. You’ll need a large shallow pan; we use a paella dish and cook it on the Rosemerryn Aga.
Creamy Chicken and Tarragon, also known as Anna’s Chicken (serves 10)
10 chicken breasts, chopped into slices and cubes
4 tablespoons of light olive oil
10 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, chopped
About 20 button mushrooms, sliced
8 small shallots, thinly sliced (or about 4 if using the larger banana shallots)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
A bag of fresh tarragon
Salt and pepper
2 large pots of light crème fraiche
- In the large shallow dish, saute the garlic, shallots, bacon and mushrooms in the olive oil
- Add the chicken pieces, a little salt and pepper to taste, and continue to sauté until cooked through. Aim for the chicken to brown a little and skim off any excess liquid
- Add the crème fraiche, stirring to warm it through. Check for seasoning
- At the last moment add the tarragon leaves, stripped from the stems, and gently stir them into the dish so that they wilt a little and release their flavour
- Serve with baby new potatoes and buttered green beans.
Enjoy with a nice chilled Sauvignon.