This tasty chicken dish has a touch of the Mediterranean, says David Woods

Cristian's pine nut topped chicken with butter nut squash
Cristian's pine nut topped chicken with butter nut squash

A simple topping can transform a dish says executive head chef David Woods of the Sofitel London Gatwick.

It’s always sad to say goodbye to a talented chef, but the blow is lessened when you know the experience they have had with you has helped them move up the career ladder.

David Woods

David Woods

So it was when we said farewell recently to chef Cristian di Maggio, who joined us a few years ago. In that short time he has moved up the ranks from commis chef to senior chef de partie, has won in-house culinary competitions, and has used his Sicilian roots to bring a touch of the Mediterranean to several dishes currently on our La Brasserie menu.

His most recent dish – pine nut-topped chicken with butternut squash – shows how he’s merging popular Sicilian ingredients with seasonal produce from this country. We serve this with a pea whip and roasted girolle mushrooms, but at home minted peas will do just fine.

La Brasserie is Sofitel’s 2 AA rosette restaurant. To book a table call 01293 567070 or email

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Cristian’s pine nut topped chicken with butter nut squash

Serves 4

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Few sprigs of thyme

25g butter

50g pine nuts

2 tsp clear honey

2 tsp grainy mustard

Half a butternut squash

300ml chicken stock.


Pre-heat the oven to 150oC.

Roughly chop the pine nuts. Put the butter and thyme into a small roasting dish and place in the oven until the butter has melted. Stir in the pine nuts and roast for 5 minutes until golden brown.

Turn the oven up to 170 oC. Mix the honey and mustard together and brush over the chicken breasts. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 15 mins until the juices run clear – or the core temperature reaches 75oC.

Sprinkle pine nut crumble over the top of the chicken breasts and press gently in place. Put back in the oven for a few minutes until hot.

Cut the butternut squash into four 1cm thick rings – no need to peel the rind as it will soften when cooked. Poach the rings in the chicken stock for about 10 minutes until tender. Remove the squash from the stock. Keep warm and continue to boil the stock until it thickens into a sauce.

Place a ring of butternut squash into the centre of a plate. Put a chicken breast into the middle and drizzle the stock sauce over the dish. Serve with peas.

Chef’s tip

Use the pine nut crumble to top fish fillets like cod, or sprinkle onto a vegetarian pasta bake for a crispy crumb.

To read last month’s column from David Woods click here.