For the tomatoes
- 8 medium-sized tomatoes (a mix of colours)
- 1 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
- 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for finishing
- 3 tbsp golden caster sugar
- 4 cloves garlic, flattened
- 10 sprigs of fresh oregano
- 4 sprigs of fresh basil, to finish
For the chicken
- 80g plain white flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp milk
- 150g dry, finely ground breadcrumbs
- 4 chicken breasts, chilled
- 1 tub of Pâté Moi mushroom pâté, chilled
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 15g salted butter
- Cocktail sticks or thin metal skewers
It’s important to begin this process with well-chilled chicken and similarly cold mushroom pâté, as the process is much easier and less messy if both are as firm as possible. Note that there’s some further chilling time for the chicken, and in any event the tomatoes should be prepared and cooked first. You can time them neatly with preparing and cooking the chicken breasts, or alternatively cook in advance and reheat in the oven for the 15-20 mins that the chicken is in there.
Preheat the oven to 150C. Cut each of the tomatoes in half through their middles (ie not the tip to stem axis). Place them cut side up in a roasting or baking tray that fits them relatively snuggly. Add a pinch of salt on to the cut side of each tomato. Do the same with the sugar, dividing the 3 tbsp equally between them. Add a drop of vinegar, then divide the olive oil between the tomatoes. Fit the squashed garlic cloves and oregano into the tray between the tomatoes, then place in the lower-middle section of the oven to cook for 1 hour, 15-40 mins. Check on them from 30 mins onwards, basting with the juices and oil – they’re done when browned a touch on top and totally soft, but still just holding their shape unless prodded.
To make the kievs, gather three plates or small trays. Tip the flour onto one plate, stirring in a good pinch or two of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Beat the eggs and milk together, then pour onto the second plate. Scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over the third.
Remove the mini fillets from each chicken breast and save for another occasion (perhaps a stir fry?). Cut a pocket in each chicken breast, slicing along the thickest length of the breast, almost (but not quite) opening the meat like a book. Spoon in 2-3 tsp pâté, then close and secure the edges with cocktail sticks or a thin skewer.
Roll one chicken breast in flour, then through the egg mix, and then into the breadcrumbs. Repeat the process so it’s well covered, then place on a baking tray or another plate. Do this with the remaining stuffed chicken breasts, then return the chicken to the fridge for 30-60 mins.
When nearly ready to eat (how are those tomatoes looking?), heat the oven to 150C, if not already running. Place a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the sunflower oil and butter. When the butter is melting, place the breaded chicken breasts into the pan, curved-side (the top) first. Cook for 1 min to 90 secs, so that the exterior becomes a little golden and crisp, then carefully flip the breast to cook their base for another min to 90 secs. You may need to do this is in batches if your frying pan is not big enough to fry four at once. Transfer the chicken breasts to a baking tray and place towards the top of your oven for 15-20 mins, until firm and cooked through.
Serve with the warm, soft, slow-roasted tomatoes, with their juices spooned over the top, plus freshly picked basil, sprinkled as generously as if they were salad leaves.
Image: Ed Smith