Poulet a l’estragon – French tarragon chicken

Poulet a l'estragon

This is the dish I associate most with being in France. I first ate poulet a l’estragon cooked by my father-in-law when we stayed with them in France some years ago. Thinking about it, it must have been more than 15 years ago, but let’s not dwell on that as it makes me feel rather old. When I ate it, I truly thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It is based on an Elizabeth David recipe and, even though those were the days when I really didn’t spend much time cooking or thinking about food, I had to copy down the recipe at once and I have made it myself many times in the intervening years.

It’s such a beautiful dish with only a handful of ingredients, but those ingredients are rather on the rich and decadent side. Perhaps not a dish you should be contemplating if you’re watching the old calories. It’s essentially a simple pot roast chicken but the addition of tarragon, butter and cream elevate it to something quite extraordinarily delicious.

We’ve been on holiday in the Dordogne for just over a week now, far away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. It’s a proper chance to kick back, unwind and spend some quality time with the family. We’re in a stunning location out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by vineyards and sunflowers as far as the eye can see.


Most of our days are spent in the swimming pool, playing Uno, pétanque, consequences or table football, devising treasure hunts and walking in the nearby woods. Oh, and of course cooking and eating. Yes, there’s been quite a bit of cooking and eating. Oh and lots of mini bottles of ice cold beer too.

eating al fresco

One of our first meals here had to be poulet a l’estragon. I made it for the first time without following the notes I made all those years ago on my now tatty and grease-spattered scrap of paper, and was rather pleased with myself for remembering what to do. But then it is pretty easy. And it tasted all the better for being eaten outside as the sun was starting to set after an arduous day soaking up the French sunshine.

poulet a l'estragon

Poulet a l’estragon

50g butter, softened
large bunch of tarragon, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
1 medium chicken
1 tsp plain flour
150ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.

Take two-thirds of the butter and using a fork gently mash in around half of the chopped tarragon, and give it a good seasoning with salt and pepper. Stuff most of this inside the chicken and rub the rest onto the skin on the breasts and legs.

Place the chicken on its side in a large ovenproof casserole and cover with the lid. Roast in the oven for about an hour and a half, turning onto the other side half way through and basting with the herby, buttery juices. The aroma at this stage will be quite incredible and I defy your stomach not to start growling. When the chicken is tender and the juices run clear, remove from the oven, and keep warm on the carving board while you make the sauce.

Work the flour into the remaining butter and, over a low heat, stir this into the juices in the casserole, along with the rest of the chopped tarragon. Then stir in the cream and bring to a very gentle simmer.

Carve the chicken and pour over the tarragon sauce. I like to serve with steamed rice and a vegetable such as green beans. French beans, naturellement. Bon appetit!


As the star of this dish is undoubtedly the tarragon, I’m entering it into August’s Cooking with Herbs challenge, hosted by the wonderful Karen at Lavender & Lovage, who I’ve just discovered is only ‘just down the road’ here in France!

Penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli

Tarragon is one of my favourite herbs, especially when paired with chicken. Its unique flavour lifts simple dishes to new heights.

I first got excited about tarragon many years ago when my father-in-law cooked us Elizabeth David’s sumptuous poulet et l’estragon one summer holiday in France. It was incredible and my husband and I have recreated it many times since and it always takes us back to those long hot days in the Dordogne.

But that is really one to save for special occasions (my husband last cooked it for me on my birthday), while this pasta dish is much more of a quick, every day family favourite. Nonetheless it tastes fantastic and all because of that lovely fresh tarragon.

Penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli

400g dried penne pasta
250g purple sprouting broccoli, cut into manageable chunks
1 large leek, washed and finely sliced
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bitesize pieces
2 tbsp vegetable oil
70ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
100g cream cheese
salt and pepper

Cook the penne in a large pan of salted water following the packet timings. About five minutes from the end of the cooking time, add the broccoli to the pasta water and cook until both pasta and broccoli are tender. Drain.

While the pasta (and broccoli) are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the leeks and sweat gently for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken pieces and cook for about five minutes until there is no sign of any pink inside.

Pour the stock into the pan, stir well and cook for a couple of minutes before stirring in the tarragon and cream cheese. Season to taste. Mix in the pasta and broccoli and serve.

I’m entering this dish into July’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, set up by Lavender & Lovage and hosted this month by me! If you have a herby recipe you’d like to enter, you can find out all the details here.

Leeks and greens springtime pie

I’m a big fan of the weekly veg box. There’s something quite exciting about not choosing your own produce but simply going with whatever is in season and is in good supply.

The veg box didn’t always suite my lifestyle though. Back in my crazy 20s when we lived in Bristol, in the days before children, when I was working full-time yet still partying hard, I first ventured down the veg box path.

It was around the time that I was just beginning to develop an interest in food and cooking, and the idea of a weekly delivery of fresh organic vegetables seemed a right-on thing to do.

Problem was the vegetables would arrive and I simply had no idea what to do with them, or indeed what some of them actually were. I’d get home from work, wanting to make a quick supper before meeting friends at the pub, and end up just staring blankly into the fridge at a gnarly celeriac or pile of sweet potatoes and having not the slightest scooby what to do next.

And eating greens week-in-week-out just wasn’t turning me on. It took me right back to my Cranks childhood

But life is very different now that I’m all grown up. The veg box suits me and my family. As you have probably spotted already, I’m rather into meal planning. Each Sunday night I sit down at my laptop surrounded by recipe books, plan out my family’s meals for the week, and place my online order for all the groceries needed.

No meal makes it onto the plan though until I’ve consulted the Riverford website, where they list the contents of the coming week’s veg boxes. I love reading through the list of produce and letting my brain whir into action as it comes up with meal ideas.

But sometimes inspiration doesn’t arrive of its accord and the Riverford website itself is a marvellous treasure trove of recipe ideas for every vegetable (and fruit) under the sun. And because I was running short of ways to cook leeks, I came across a Riverford recipe for Flamiche, which turns out to be a Belgian leek pie.

I don’t think I’ve cooked a Riverford recipe yet that has disappointed, and this was certainly no exception. The creamy, buttery leeks combined with tarragon and nutmeg, encased in a light shortcrust pastry made for a tasty supper on one of our regular Meat Free Mondays. We ate it cold for lunch the next day and it was equally good, so I reckon this pie would be great for a picnic.

So here is my slight variation on the Flamiche, which has some spring greens thrown in, just because I happened to have those in the fridge too. It’s ever so easy to make, particularly when you use ready-made pastry. And no it’s not cheating – everyone does it!

Leeks and greens springtime pie

Serves 6

500g ready-made shortcrust pastry
600g leeks, washed, trimmed and sliced
200g spring greens, washed and shredded
6 tbsp creme fraiche
60g parmesan cheese
1 tbsp chopped tarragon leaves (I couldn’t find fresh so used dried, which worked perfectly well)
nutmeg, freshly grated
salt and pepper
1 egg yolk, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6.

Gently cook the leeks in butter until soft and translucent. Add the spring greens and stir into the leeks until the greens wilt.

Pour the leeks and greens into a large bowl and allow to cool.

Butter a quiche dish. Halve the pastry and roll out one half into a large circle and line the dish. Prick the bottom with a fork. Roll out the other pastry half into another circle the same size and cover with clingfilm for later.

When the leeks and greens have cooled, add the creme fraiche, nutmeg, parmesan and tarragon. Season well. Spread the mixture evenly over the pastry base.

Next brush some egg yolk over the exposed edges of the pastry, and place the other pastry circle over the pie filling and pinch the edges to seal.

Brush the top with more egg yolk and use a sharp knife to make a cross-shaped slit in the middle so that steam can escape.

Bake in the oven on a baking sheet for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden. Serve warm or cold with a side salad.