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.