Chicken, pancetta and mushroom stew (Donna Hay: Modern Classics)

There are cook books that you buy that seem to be bursting with fabulous photos and inspiration. You read them, tag them with post-it notes and then sadly rarely use them. Then there are the cook books that, while there is nothing flashy about them, they are splashed with spots of sauce and the pages are dog eared from over use. This is the sort of cook book that Donna Hay’s Modern Classics 1 is.

It’s the book I frequently turn to whether I want to roast a leg of lamb with a honey and mustard marinade or if I feel like making Vietnamese rice paper rolls. The idea of Modern Classics 1 is that every basic dish is covered no matter how self evident or simple the recipe may appear. There is even a whole page detailing the best way to cook rice. The book only covers, savoury dishes, the follow-up book Modern Classics 2 uses the equivalent approach to desserts and is equally as good.

This recipe for chicken, pancetta and mushroom stew is typical of the recipes in Modern Classics 1. It is a basic recipe but one that packs a punch flavour wise and you could easily see it becoming a staple. The whole stew has a lovely creamy flavour permeated by the subtle flavour of the leeks and tarragon. I adapted the recipe slightly to use sliced pancetta rather than cubed to make the dish lighter.

1.6 kg chicken cut into large pieces with skin removed
Plain flour for coating
1tbsp olive oil
150g pancetta cut into small pieces
2 leeks sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200g button mushrooms sliced
2.5 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1 cup cream
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
Salt and pepper to season

1. Toss the chicken pieces in flour.

2. Place half of the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until browned. Remove and set aside.

3. Add the remaining oil to the pan and cook the leeks, garlic and mushrooms until golden. Add the pancetta as well for a brief period when almost done. Remove and set aside.

4. Combine the stock and wine in the pan. Bring to a simmer and return the chicken to the pan and cook, covered for 25 minutes. Add the pancetta, leek, garlic and mushroom mixture, the cream, parsley, tarragon, salt and pepper to the pan and simmer uncovered for a further 10 mins or until reduced and thickened.

5. Serve with potatoes.


  1. I know *exactly* what you mean about your Modern Classics book. Despite having shelves full of beautiful, relatively-pricey cookbooks by Thomas Keller, Molto Mario & Co., I always return to the Joy of Cooking when I need a foolproof, well-tested recipe. I’m esp. grateful to “the Joy” now that it’s again pulled me through a Thanksgiving for twelve.

  2. Thanksgiving for 12 is impressive. I don’t have the Joy of Cooking though I have heard a lot about it. Might have to consider investing in it.

  3. Surprisingly for such a handy cookbook (and compared to the cost of celeb-chef-food-porn cookbooks) the Joy of Cooking isn’t expensive, so I highly recommend putting it on your Christmas wishlist. : )

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