Pic of Poached chicken breast with pesto dressing

Poached chicken breast with pesto dressing

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Meat mains

Poached chicken breast with pesto dressing

Main Serves 3 55 min
Elegant slices of chicken breast topped with fragrant pesto, this goes well with buttery boiled new potatoes and a salad. Poaching yields a tender, moist meat, but only works well if you start with a with good, free-range chicken and don't cook it above a simmer. Any leftover pesto will keep well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but if you don't fancy making your own, shop-bought is fine.


  • whole chicken, minus legs and wings
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
  • bouquet garni
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 4 tbsp sunflower seeds or pine kernels (sunflower seeds are a fraction of the price)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan or Pecorino, grated
  • 4 tbsp fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • about 100ml olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar


Prep time: 10 min
Cooking time: 45 min
  • Step 1

    Put the chicken, leek, onion, carrot, celery, bouquet garni and peppercorns in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and leave to cool.
  • Step 2

    Meanwhile, make your pesto. Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Sprinkle all the sunflower seeds on a roasting tray and lightly toast in the oven until they just begin to colour. Put the garlic and a couple of tablespoon of oil in a small food processor or blender and pulse until the garlic is virtually emulsified. Add 2 tablespoons of the sunflower seeds and the Parmesan and pulse again until the seeds have broken up.
  • Step 3

    Add the basil and enough oil to blend and pulse again until it is reasonably smooth. Season with pepper and add more oil so it is a little runnier than conventional pesto. I don't usually add any salt because the cheese takes care of that. Mix the pesto, vinegar and remaining sunflower seeds and spoon into a small bowl.
  • Step 4

    Carefully cut the chicken breasts off the carcass and slice as thinly as possible. Arrange neatly on the plates and serve with the pesto dressing, a green salad and a few boiled new potatoes.
  • Step 5

    Return the carcass to the saucepan, simmer for another hour, strain, refrigerate and use for soups and risottos.
  • Step 6

    During the basil season pesto seems to find its way onto my table at least twice a week so I tend to make it in fairly industrial quantities, put it in clean jar and cover with olive oil. It will keep in the fridge for two or three weeks.