A wonderful Italian chicken breast recipe, which is perfect for a dinner party. You can stuff the chicken up to 12 hours ahead if time allows. The honey glaze helps the chicken to brown. You could use home-made pesto if you liked, but do be sure to make it with the traditional basil, not coriander!

Serves 6
Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 35 minutes
Freezes well raw and stuffed. Sauce does not freeze

15 g (1/2 oz) butter
6 chicken breasts, boneless, skin on
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons runny honey
1 x 200 ml carton full-fat crème fraîche
2 tablespoons pesto from a jar

50 g (2 oz) butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 slices Parma ham, snipped into small pieces
40 g (1 1/2 oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
50 g (2 oz) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Butter a small roasting tin.

To make the stuffing, melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan, add the onion and fry for a few minutes. Cover, lower the heat and cook for about 10–15 minutes until the onion is soft. Remove the lid, add the ham and fry over a high heat for a few minutes to crisp. Tip into a mixing bowl to cool. Add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley and egg to the mixing bowl, mix together and season with some salt and pepper.

Loosen the skin from the chicken breasts, leaving one side attached to make a small pocket. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Divide the stuffing into six and stuff into the pocket in each piece of chicken. Pull the skin back over to cover the stuffing.

Arrange the chicken pieces snugly in the buttered roasting tin. Brush the skin on each breast with a little runny honey. Slide the tin into the preheated oven and bake for about 20–25 minutes until the chicken is cooked, golden brown and the juices run clear. Transfer to a plate and set aside to rest while making the sauce.

Add the crème fraîche to the juices left in the tin. Scrape the bottom of the tin so all the juices and flavours are combined with the crème fraîche, and whisk over a high heat on the hob. Stir in the pesto and serve the sauce with the chicken breasts.

To cook in the AGA
Cook the onion, covered, in the simmering oven for about 20 minutes until tender. Slide the chicken tin on to the highest set of runners in the roasting oven for about 15–20 minutes until the chicken is cooked and golden brown. Slide the sauce on to the floor of the roasting oven for about 3–5 minutes until bubbling.

This recipe is delicious using boned quail or boned wood pigeon too. Rather than making just a few breadcrumbs, whizz a whole loaf in the processor and keep in the freezer. Use the crumbs straight from the freezer – they defrost very quickly. Never over-heat pesto sauce as it may become too oily.

A secret from our kitchen
We find more and more that onions now have a tough outer layer under the outside skin, because they are often grown from sets and not seeds, and are therefore forced during growing. So remove this outer layer as well as the skin to be sure of perfectly tender onions after cooking. Or grow your own!

This recipe is from my book Secrets from a Country Kitchen