chicken stuffed with basil, mozzarella and oak-roasted cherry tomatoes


if you ask a particular group of my friends what food they associate with me they will answer, in chorus, “foil parcels!” mention this to david though and he’ll look at you perplexed.

foil parcels were a regular feature when i moved into my flat about 5 years ago – money was tight and i didn’t have much spare cash for cooking implements and accessories so i regularly relied on foil for parcelling up portions of chicken or fish, with vegetables and other flavourings. i didn’t need baking trays, had minimal washing up, could cater to allergies and other food foibles with ease and i could actually cook fish without stinking the whole place out. Perfect!

it has been a while since i cooked in this way but i have recently revisited one of the dishes that i used to make in this way with great regularity.

this recipe is very simple: stuffed chicken breasts wrapped with pancetta and baked until the chicken is cooked through and the pancetta crispy. i’ve done this with various different types of stuffing – a traditional sage & onion stuffing is nice if you want to evoke a traditional roast, haggis also works well with traditional accompaniments, flavoured butters (i like olive) draw their inspiration from chicken kiev or you can focus on cheese and herbs for something a little more indulgent.

chicken stuffed with basil, mozzarella and oak-roasted cherry tomatoes (serves 2)

2 chicken breasts, skin removed

1 ball mozzarella, sliced

2 tablespoons oak-roasted cherry tomatoes

1 tablespoon bail leaves, shredded

8-10 pieces rashers of smoked pancetta

olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

preheat the oven to 200c.

carefully make a slit in the side of each chicken breast, creating a pocket into which you can place your stuffing. fill each pocket with half the mozzarella, oak-roasted tomatoes and basil.

wrap the chicken breast with the smoked pancetta rashers, overlapping the edges so that when the cheese melts and oozes out of the chicken pocket, it will be contained by the pancetta. you might need to use cocktail sticks to hold everything in place.

place the chicken in a lightly oiled dish, season with black pepper and cover with foil. bake in the oven for 15 minutes, remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes. the chicken should now be cooked through and the pancetta crisp, if not give it a bit longer (if the chicken is ready you can crisp up the pancetta under a hot grill).

we ate this with a warm puy lentil and spinach salad.