Chicken. Most of us have at least one food that we have a difficult relationship with and mine, for sooooo long, was chicken. In my late 20s I had a horrific case of food poisoning after eating it in a restaurant. Don’t worry, I’m not about to go into details – this is a food blog! But suffice to say I didn’t eat it again for the next 10 years. I couldn’t stand the sight of it and was even annoyed by its omnipresence on menus and in shops.
I can’t remember exactly how, when or why but, at some point a few years ago, it very slowly began to reappear in my diet. Now, don’t get me wrong it took time and it started as one meal every fortnight or so (now it’s probably once a week) but it’s definitely back! And while I certainly won’t be eating it at any restaurants again, I’m actually glad.
The thing about chicken is it’s got to be the most versatile meat around. Breaded chicken, roast chicken, kievs, chicken sandwiches, chicken tikka…. it’s basically the potato of the meat world! Consequently (and maybe still with a trace of reluctance) I decided to start coming up with some chicken recipes. After all, in terms of weight loss and dieting, chicken is a lean mean protein machine and is nicely filling which makes it a real winner.
So here is my first. The ham ended up in the final recipe because we had some that needed using so I did it as an experiment and really liked it, but I have done it without and it’s still very nice. I am really pleased with the herby “pesto” – obviously it’s not proper pesto but it seems like pesto is a fairly flexible concept nowadays, doesn’t it?
It’s zingy, tangy and fresh and works so well with the mozzarella and ham. In fact, I think it deserves to be written up as its own recipe for use in other ways too – most notably to just stir through some cooked pasta for a super quick and easy (and fairly virtuous) dinner because who doesn’t love those!
You can make a bigger batch of this pesto and keep it in the fridge for up to a week in an airtight jar. If you don’t have any airtight storage jars, please get some! Seriously, I have loads of these in various sizes. They are so useful for storing anything from pasta and breadcrumbs to sauces and pesto and I have cute little ones for all my herbs and spices. I use jars like these to store homemade pesto, sauces, lemon curd and things along those lines. Have a look!
I always say how much I value flexibility in recipes. I haven’t had the chance to play around with this one much yet as it’s a fairly recent invention so I’ve stuck to the recipe to perfect it to share with you but I do have a couple of modifications queued up on my list. Nothing major – just a couple of different cheeses to try instead of mozzarella and something with bread crumbs which isn’t yet a fully formed idea. Obviously when I do try them, if I do happen to come up with something that turns out to be a game changer then I will of course post it!
You might look at this recipe and think it sounds like a bit of a faff but it’s actually pretty easy and the finished article looks pretty impressive (more brownie points for appearing to have spent hours in the kitchen mwah haha!). I would say the worst bit is actually handling the raw chicken and rolling it up (although that might be just me!). Just make sure that you tuck it up nice and tight in the paper before you bake it to keep as much of that zingy pesto in there as you can!
Now, just to let you know when you take it out of the oven, there’s going to be a load of kind of green liquid in the bottom of the dish – now I don’t know the exact cooking science-y terms here but it seems to almost poach the chicken during cooking so you get a lovely moist and juicy piece of cooked chicken (and it’s not Hulk juice so don’t worry!).
Anyway, as always please let me know what you thought (or about any changes you made that worked well) in the comments section or by using the Contact me form. Enjoy! DDx
Stuffed herby pesto chicken
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
Chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella, ham and a fresh zingy herby pesto, oven baked and sliced for an impressive looking dinner!
- 4 chicken breasts
- 4 slices of ham
- 40 g fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 10 g fresh basil
- 40 g parmesan, roughly sliced or chopped
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- A 125 g ball of mozzarella (cut into 4 thick slices)
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C / fan 180°C / 390F°.
- On a clean board or surface, use a meat mallet or rolling pin to flatten the chicken breasts out so they are roughly 0.5cm thick.
- Put the parsley, basil, parmesan, garlic and lemon juice in the food processor. Add half of the olive oil and blitz. Keep scraping the sides of the jug down, adding in more oil ad blitzing as necessary until you have a thick pesto consistency.
- Spread the herby pesto liberally over one side of each chicken breast with a spoon or spatula. Lay a slice of ham over the pesto and then place a slice of mozzarella in the middle.
- Carefully roll each breast up, poking back in as much pesto as you can if it comes out. Secure at the end with a cocktail stick or skewer if you ned to.
- Cut a large square of baking/greaseproof paper for each breast. Roll the breast up in paper, tucking in the ends as best you can like a parcel (this is to keep the filling secure inside during oven cooking).
- Lightly spray a baking tray or oven dish with cooking spray and place the chicken parcels in it.
- Cook in the preheated oven for 40 mins. Check that the chicken is cooked and slice into rounds to serve.
You could get a bit fancy and try some prosciutto or sliced chorizo in place of ham – or this is still delicious if you want to leave the ham out altogether.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Calories: 692.9kcal