Here’s a little something I hope proves useful in these trying, lockdown times.
We get a lot of fast food leaflets through our door and I am always shocked, as I watch them tumble into the recycle bin, at the cost of the food they’re offering compared to the cost of the ingredients. Recently, I was very disconcerted to see that a single person southern fried meal cost more than an entire chicken at the supermarket.
I appreciate that the price includes wages/utilities on top of the cost, but it still seems very poor value for money, so I decided to see if I could present an alternative to demonstrate the versatility and frugality of cooking at home. It’s something I’ve been mulling over for a while: whether a whole supermarket chicken can be made to last a week.
This post is about the cooking of a large, standard, supermarket chicken – one chicken, seven meals. Great for the single person, but obviously, for even a small family, one chicken isn’t going to last a week. My hope is that one or two of these meal ideas might inspire you to make your chicken go just a little further than usual.
For the most part, these are recipes without recipes, with a sprinkling of suggestions. If you need clarification, please don’t hesitate to drop me a comment.
Sunday – Roast Chicken & Stock
Method 1 – Oven
- If you can afford it, roast two chickens in the oven at the same time. It’s more economical and you’ll have more cooked chicken to use/freeze.
- Put the chickens on a rack over a large roasting pan. Or use the solid shelves that come with your oven, and put the chickens on the rack oven shelf.
- Add about 1 litre of water to the roasting tin. This will catch all the meat juices and stop them gumming up your pan over the long roasting time, and be the basis of your gravy. During the cooking, it will also keep your chickens moist as the oven heat turns to steam.
- Put your pan into a cold oven and turn the heat to 140°C, 120°C Fan.
- Cook your chickens for 4 hours. They will be basted to a delicious tenderness by their own fat, and the skin will crisp to parchment thinness.
- While the chicken is cooking, prepare your potatoes/stuffing/vegetables. Peel your potatoes and cut into even-sized pieces. Boil for 5 minutes, drain then allow to dry in the warm pan. When dried, shake the pan to roughen the edges, which will make for extra crispiness. Cauliflower and broccoli are simple to prepare and cook quickly and the combination of cauliflower and chicken gravy is sublime.
- After 4 hours, remove from the oven, lift the rack off the tin and cover the chickens in foil. Cover the foil with a clean cloth. NB To keep the skin crisp, remove it and set aside before covering with foil. The chickens will stay hot for quite a while, certainly long enough to roast your potatoes/cook stuffing/steam vegetables.
- Turn the oven up to 200°C, 180°C.
- Put some lard or dripping in a roasting pan and put into the oven to melt/heat. Coat your roughened potatoes with the hot fat and roast for 45 minutes. Put your stuffing in at the same time.
- Get a steamer pan ready for your vegetables. Carrots can be peeled/cut into batons and cooked in the boiling water under the rest of the vegetables (give them a 5-minute head start, for 15 minutes total). French beans boil in 7 minutes/steam in 10. Broccoli and cauliflower also steam in 10 – put the cauliflower in the steamer pan under the broccoli.
- Pour the water from the chicken pan into a saucepean, together with any bits that have fallen in. Taste to see if it is flavoured well enough. If not, then add some bouillon or boil fast to evaporate some of the liquid. Serve as a jus or thicken with flour if preferred.
Method 2 – Slow Cooker
For one chicken
- Get 1 large onion, 2 large carrots, 3 sticks of celery.
- Peel the carrots and cut in half lengthways. Cut the celery in half across the width. Cut the onion in half, no need to remove the brown skin.
- Arrange the vegetables on the bottom of the slow cooker. Add fresh herbs if liked.
- Put the chicken on the top.
- Put the lid on and cook on High for 4 hours, Low for 5 hours. No need to add any water. There’s enough moisture in the vegetables and chicken to keep it moist and make a very flavourful jus.
- Finish as above.
Before bedtime, take a few moments to set up your stock so it can work it’s magic overnight.
3 sticks celery
1tbs black peppercorns
- Take off all the meat from the carcase(s) and set aside. Put everything else into a pan or slow cooker.
- Chop the vegetables and put all the remaining ingredients into the pan.
- Add sufficient water to just cover.
- Cover and cook in the slow cooker overnight on Low, or cook on the hob on 1. The low heat will make for a clear, flavourful stock, and the brown onion skins will give it a great colour.
- The next morning, switch off the heat and allow to cool until just warm.
- Put a colander over a bowl and pour the contents of the pan through, to remove the bones and vegetables. It will need to drain for 15-20 minutes.
- Repeat, this time using a fine sieve to remove smaller particles.
- If you’re keen, repeat a third time, either lining the sieve with wet muslin, or using a coffee filter, to ensure your stock is crystal clear.
- Allow the stock to cool completely, then chill in the fridge or freezer. When completely cold, remove the fat that will be resting on the top.
- Portion out your stock and freeze. 500ml is a useful quantity to have to hand.
Monday – Cold chicken salad with baked potato
This meal harps back to my childhood. We always had a Sunday Roast – chicken, beef, pork, lamb in rotation – and Monday was always washing day. This was back in the days before modern, front-loading machines, when the best we had was what was known as a Twin Tub. Bedding had to be soaked in a barrel, then thrashed about with a copper washing dolly, or what we used to call an ‘umpy-tump’ – because that was the sound it made splooshing up and down on the sheets. These were then rinsed and finally passed through the mangle. All of which is a huge digression, but my point, my POINT is…..Mondays were a bit busy, so there was little time for cooking meals. The quickest and simplest was to have cold slices of meat from the roast and a baked potato. Salad scattered with some chopped mint from the garden and a splurt of mayonnaise, and it was ready in no-time. Choose whatever part of the chicken you like, but the pale breast does both look and taste delicious.
Tuesday – Chicken and Veg Pie with crunchy stuffing
All the flavour of Sunday Roast Chicken – inna pie! Using the leftover vegetables and gravy means it comes together in minutes and the crunchy stuffing ‘crumble’ sets it off beautifully. Can be made without pastry as a ‘bake.’
cooked chicken – a mix of light & dark
cooked vegetables from the Sunday roast such as carrots, french beans, etc.
baked shortcrust pastry tart shell(s)
- Chop the chicken and vegetables into 1cm dice.
- Moisten with the gravy.
- Freshen things up with a handful of frozen peas – no need to cook first.
- Spoon the mixture into the pastry shell(s).
- Blitz the stuffing in the food processor or chop coarsely.
- Sprinkle over the top of the pie to give a savoury crumble topping.
- Put pie(s) into the oven and turn the heat to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until thoroughly heated through and the topping is crisped and browned.
Wednesday – Chicken Sandwich
Now you might be forgiven for thinking that this is a bit of a cop-out ‘recipe’ – A recipe for a chicken sandwich? I hear you exclaim. Well yes and no. On the one hand, no-one needs a recipe for a sandwich – bread, butter, filling, bish-bash-bosh, job done! But here I’d like to offer a few suggestions to take your chicken sandwich game up a notch or two, without having to resort to fancy-schmancy breads, etc.
- Bread – Whatever you fancy. I’d like to suggest that you toast it, but only one side. I’ve opted for wholemeal brown and you can see from the picture that just the outside is toasted. This is to give crunch texture, something I’ve come to value more and more in recent years. It will also give a great contrast to the soft, creamy filling.
- Butter – Actually, no. Better in this context to go with mayonnaise. I alternate between a low-fat mayonnaise, and making a dressing comprised of half mayo, half plain yogurt, with coarse-ground black pepper and a dash of lemon juice to add a little zing. Use either of these instead of butter on the untoasted side of the bread. Then, on each slice, add a light dusting of finely ground white pepper and a scattering of a pinch – literally between index finger and thumb – of salt.
- Filling – again, choose whatever part of the chicken you like. I’ve gone for thinly (5mm) sliced chicken breast. You don’t need much to make a decent sandwich. Arrange the slices on one piece of bread and press the other slice lightly on top. Cut into quarters.
- Put together a little salad and arrange on a plate alongside the cut sandwich and enjoy.
- If you’re in need of something more substantial, try pairing your sammich with some Leek and Potato soup, made with your delicious stock.
Thursday – Chicken Tetrazzini
Recipe can be found here.
If your supply of chicken is dwindling, add more chestnut mushrooms, whose meaty texture goes so well with the sauce. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, make a full batch of the sauce, because it is fabulous, and portion/freeze it for a quick meal later.
Friday – Berbere Chicken
Here’s something a bit different. Berbere is a fabulous aromatic Ethiopian spice mix. It is available both in shops (Bart do a tin) and online and you can even mix up a batch yourself and have it be tailored to your own personal taste. If you can’t find any berbere, you can substitute your favourite curry powder or garam masala.
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
3 plum tomatoes
3tbs tomato paste
500ml chicken stock
salt & pepper to taste
- Peel the onion and chop finely.
- Melt the ghee in a pan and add the onion. Cook over medium heat until the onion has softened and is starting to brown.
- While the onion is cooking, chop finely (in a food processor if liked) the garlic and tomatoes.
- Add 1tbs of berbere to the cooked onions and stir for 2 minutes, until fragrant.
- Add the chopped garlic and tomatoes, tomato paste and stock.
- Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Use a stick blender or liquidiser to puree the sauce smooth.
- Taste and add more berbere, salt and pepper if liked.
- Add the cooked chicken and heat through. Serve with noodles and rice or mujaddara.
- Extra sauce can be refrigerated/frozen for use another time.
Saturday – Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup
As the end of the week approaches, you might be down to your last few shreds of chicken, so a great way to make them stretch is to make a soup. There is a very basic version, and then a list of additions which you can add according to taste/necessity.
1 onion – finely chopped
2tbs plain flour
250ml chicken stock
1 tin sweetcorn – drained
cooked chicken – chopped small.
bell peppers – seeded and diced
cooked potatoes – cubed
garlic – to taste, finely chopped, or garlic powder
ham/bacon – to taste
spring onions – sliced
fresh parsley – chopped
cooked vegetables – whatever you have to hand
- Melt the butter in a pan and add the chopped onion. Cook until softened and translucent.
- Add the flour and cook, stirring, until it thickens into a roux.
- Add the milk and stock and continue stirring over medium heat until thickened to the consistency of cream.
- Simmer for 5 minutes to cook out the flour. Taste, and if it tastes floury, simmer a little longer.
- This is the soup base. If you like a smooth soup, you could puree it now, either in a liquidiser or using a stick blender.
- Add the rest of your ingredients according to taste and simmer gently until heated through.
I’ve been serving these up for weeknight suppers for years – I serve up other stuff too, not just these – and my daughter recently asked me if they were on the blog. When I replied that they weren’t, she asked “Why not?”, to which I had no answer, so here we are.
Over the years I’ve tried a number of tweaks and improvements, but this version, possibly the simplest, has always come out on top. Nevertheless, whether you’d like to try these variations for yourself or save yourself the bother, I’ll quickly run through the possibilities for switching up the details.
- Chicken: Personally I prefer dark meat on a chicken – it’s so much more flavourful than the white – and have made these with halved chicken thigh fillets, but the vote in this house is invariably for either chicken breast cut into large chunks or, as in the picture, mini fillets. I’m willing to concede that the short cooking time is actually more suited to white meat, allowing it to remain moist under its crisp crumb coating.
- The Coating: Egg-wash and breadcrumbs. Sounds simple, and it certainly can be, but it can also be varied slightly without too much additional hassle
- Egg-wash. The meat pieces need to be bathed in some kind of liquid in order to get the coating to stick, and beaten egg is fine. However, if you have some egg-whites that need using up, then my preference is for using them to make both these and the fat-free crispy oven chips and at one stroke becoming my daughter’s food hero – fat-free chicken nuggets and chips for supper and a fridge clear out – win! The egg-whites, in my head at least, seem to make for a crisper coating.
- Breadcrumbs: I’ve tried them all – fresh, dried, panko, corn flakes, polenta, cornbread – and indeed you should too if you like experimentation, but as already mentioned, the most popular have emerged as also the simplest – fresh breadcrumbs. I use 3 slices of wholemeal bread – because that’s what we have, but white can be used too. Fresh as opposed to dried because they are to give crispness to the coating only, and are not needed to absorb any moisture. By the end of the short cooking time, they have gone from soft, fresh crumbs to crisp, dry crumbs, without burning. Dried breadcrumbs tend to dry too much during cooking and the likelihood of burning them is increased. Panko breadcrumbs also did not get the popular vote, as the pieces were too coarse. In addition, a single layer of coating is quite sufficient – the time I tried for extra-crispiness in the coating by double-breading was deemed a borderline failure as the chicken was declared TOO crispy!
- Spices – You can use any combination that takes your fancy, as long as you include the secret ingredient: sweet paprika. This has little flavour and I use it mostly for colour, as it turns the breadcrumbs golden brown without the need for frying. Personally I like to use smoked sweet paprika, for a little more interest, pepper, salt and then add to it three or four additional spices – whatever catches my eye from the spice jars. Select from any of the following: cumin, coriander, garlic granules, onion, powder, garam masala, thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, nutmeg, ground ginger, grated Parmesan.
- Cooking method: Baked in the oven. This is not only much healthier than frying, but it is also quicker, relatively foolproof and makes practically no mess – Win! You can bake your nuggets on a parchment-lined baking sheet. The underside will be slightly less crisp, due to trapped moisture. Alternatively, lay them on a lightly-oiled (to prevent them sticking) metal rack which will allow the hot air to circulate all around them as they bake.
600g chicken breast or mini fillets
3 slices wholemeal bread
1tbs smoked sweet paprika
½tsp coarse ground black pepper
½tsp each of cumin, onion powder, garlic granules, coriander and garam masala – or whatever herbs/spices you prefer
1 large egg or 60ml eggwhites
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan
- Tear the bread into rough pieces and place into a food processor. Blitz to breadcrumbs.
- Add the paprika, seasoning and spices and blitz again until the crumbs are of a uniform colour. Tip out into a bowl.
- In a second bowl, whisk the egg or whites until frothy.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray a cooking rack lightly with oil and place over a baking sheet.
- To avoid getting in a sticky mess, set up your worktop as follows, from left to right: chicken, egg-wash, breadcrumbs, baking tray.
- With your left hand, tae a piece of chicken and toss it in the egg-wash, then drop the chicken into the breadcrumbs.
- With your right hand, shake the bowl with the crumbs around until the piece of chicken is coated, then remove to the cooking tray/rack.
- Continue until all of the chicken is coated.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken pieces. If at all in doubt, cut the thickest piece in half to check that the insides show no hint of pink. If you’re serving these with the fat-free oven chips, they can go into the same oven for the last 12 minutes of baking.
- Serve at once with salad (I know you won’t but I’m going to pretend you will) and ketchup.
Here’s a delicious Deja Food recipe that we regularly enjoy in this house, whenever there is some Tandoori Chicken going spare. That in itself is quite a challenge, since both my husband and daughter love Tandoori Chicken with a passion, so I find myself making gargantuan quantities purely in order to have anything left with which to make Butter Chicken.
Invented at the Moti Mahal (Palace of Pearl), one of the oldest restaurants in Delhi, by Mr Kundan Lal Gujral, Butter Chicken, or Murgh Makhani to give it it’s proper name, was devised as a way of keeping Tandoori Chicken moist and flavourful from one day to the next. The dark, smokiness of the cooked chicken is enriched by the Makhani gravy of spices, ghee, tomatoes and cashews, especially if you can leave them marinading overnight. The recipe below is one that I’ve used for 5-6 years, tweaking slightly to reduce the fat content whilst still retaining the rich flavours of the dish.
I’m not going to tell you how to make Tandoori Chicken, because I’d only be repeating the most excellent words of Madhur Jaffrey. Her recipe appears in Indian Cookery, a well-thumbed copy of which is gradually falling apart on one of my many shelves of cook books, but it is also available online HERE. I’m glad she has stopped advocating the lurid food colouring – it always unnerved me somewhat to see incandescent pieces of chicken on the plate. To get a little more red into my chicken, I add a generous amount of sweet paprika – the Rajah brand here in the UK gives fiery colour without the fiery heat – but since it will ultimately be lovingly enveloped in sauce, I shouldn’t fret too much about this.
A couple of points on ingredients: I strongly recommend hunting out a tin of ghee, as its almost perfumed aroma greatly enhances the dish, and dried fenugreek leaves are a must for that authentic taste. Add hot spices if you like, but I prefer it without.
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger – peeled & chopped
6 fresh chillies, red or green – deseeded
6 cloves garlic – peeled
50g ghee or clarified butter
4 x 5cm cinnamon sticks
3 black cardamom pods (if not available, use 10 green cardamom pods in total)
6 green cardamom pods
1 tbs cloves
4 bay leaves
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes – pureed smooth
100 g raw cashew nuts
1-2 tbs honey
1-2 tbs tomato paste
paprika to taste (optional)
chilli powder to taste (optional)
2 tbs dried fenugreek leaves
50 g ghee or clarified butter
60 ml crème fraiche
- Make a paste of the ginger, garlic and chillis by blitzing in a food processor with 4 tablespoons of water until well chopped.
- Melt the ghee/butter in a large frying pan and add the cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves and bay leaves. Cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the ginger/garlic/chilli mix and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
- Add the pureed tomatoes, stir thoroughly, then turn the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and pick out the whole spices or sieve the sauce to remove them. Discard the spices.
- Pour the sauce into a blender and add the cashews, paprika, chilli powder (if using), honey and tomato paste. Puree until thickened and smooth (about 2 minutes). Stir the contents thoroughly and puree again for 30 seconds.
- If you’re making this to freeze, then stop now. Pour the sauce into suitable containers (this will make about 900 ml of sauce – yes, we like this sauce a LOT – and having it in the freezer can bring a meal together in minutes), label and leave to cool before freezing. If you’re preparing ahead, add your sauce to your cooked/cold Tandoori Chicken, stir, cover, and chill overnight in the fridge, otherwise add the chicken and proceed as below.
- To Serve
- Heat gently in a suitably large pan.
- Add the remaining ghee and the dried fenugreek and simmer for five minutes.
- Stir in the crème fraiche just before serving and sprinkle a few more fenugreek leaves as garnish
Serve with plain rice and naan breads (to mop up all that lovely sauce!)
I’m going full-on retro this week, with the tweak of a classic from my days as a bistro waitress, back in nineteen tumpty-tum *waves hand vaguely*
Created in the early years of the 20th century in the United States and named after Italian opera star Luisa Tetrazzini, it is usually found on late-December tables made with leftover turkey and a can of condensed soup. *shudder*
This, however, is an altogether more delicate affair with fresh herbs and mushrooms and a splash of wine.
I love this dish for lots of reasons – it’s easy, its versatile, you can cook it from scratch, but it can also be created from cold chicken and cooked pasta, which means it can be assembled in a relatively short amount of time. The sauce – if I say so myself – is AMAZING: I could quite happily eat it by itself. If you’re in a hurry, then it can be served straight from the pan as a pasta sauce – but if you have the time to make it ahead, it can also sit in the fridge in a casserole and then heat through in about 30 minutes when needed, with no need for any further attention.
I don’t usually fuss too much with specific types of ingredients, but for this recipe I strongly recommend using the chestnut mushrooms if possible – other mushrooms tend to turn the sauce a rather unappetising grey. Fresh thyme is also preferable, but 1.5 tsp of dried thyme can be used instead.
The amounts of both chicken and mushrooms can be varied according to taste or availability. Since the cooked mushrooms have a meaty texture, they mix well with the chicken, and can easily make a small amount of chicken stretch to a family meal. The pasta can be any shape, but shells (conchiglie) and twists (fusilli) hold sauce the best. Alternatively, egg noodles are quicker.
300-500g cooked chicken, diced
2 tbs vegetable oil
250-500g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
5 shallots – finely chopped
5 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves – chopped
150ml white wine
1 litre milk- warmed
Up to 4 tsp chicken stock powder (bouillon)
freshly ground nutmeg
A handful of chopped parsley – or more to taste
600g cooked pasta or cook 450g of dry pasta.
1/2 cup grated Grana Padano cheese
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
- Put the diced chicken into a bowl and set aside.
- Melt the butter and oil in a large pan.
- Add the mushrooms and cook over a medium heat until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms become pale golden. This will take about 10 minutes.
- Add the shallots, garlic, and thyme, and cook until the shallots soften and become translucent.
- Stir in the wine and simmer until it has evaporated, then add the mushroom mixture to the chicken.
- Melt the butter in the now empty pan and scatter in the flour to make a roux for the sauce.
- Stir the mixture for 3-4 minutes to cook the flour, then remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the milk, a little at a time. NB – removing the pan from the heat while adding the milk will help reduce the chances of lumps forming.
- When all the milk has been added, return the pan to the heat and continue to stir while the sauce comes to the boil and thickens.
- Gradually add the bouillon powder, tasting between each addition to make sure it’s not becoming too salty.
- Finally add a good grating of nutmeg and the parsley.
- If you’re eating immediately, add the chicken mix and pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. Turn the heat to low and let simmer gently while everything heats through. When thoroughly warmed, serve in bowls with a side salad or vegetables – broccoli and cauliflower go well .
- To serve later, turn off the heat once the sauce has thickened. Allow to cool before stirring in the chicken mix and the cooked pasta. Pour the mixture into an oven-proof dish.
- Mix together the cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top. Cover with foil and refrigerate.
- To serve, put the dish onto a baking sheet (in case the sauce bubbles over) and put in the oven.
- Turn the oven on to 180ºC, 160ºC Fan and allow to warm for 25-30 minutes, or until the dish is thoroughly heated and the sauce bubbling.
- Remove the foil after 20 minutes so that the topping can become crunchy and brown.
Peas go very well with this recipe, either as a side dish or stirred into the sauce itself.
Turkey – This is equally amazing when made with turkey – a welcome standby to have when faced with mountains of Christmas leftovers.
Vegetarian – just omit the chicken and increase the amount of chestnut mushrooms to 1kg. Use vegetable bouillon powder when making the sauce.
Pasta – consider using long, flat pasta such as linguini.