Tuesday, 17 January 2012

20 meals from one chicken

Is it really possible to get 20 meals out of a medium chicken? And are those meal worthwhile and filling? I think so.

When Steve was growing up his mother would put a couple of ounces of corned beef into a mound of mashed potato and call it corned beef hash. He said it was mash potato with the occasional pink fleck. But that was one way to feed the family with not much. I would like to point out that we're not poor and don't need to eek out our food in this way (thank goodness), but I do feel a moral duty to make the most of what we have. So when I bought a chicken to roast last week I knew it would make more than one meal and I planned for this in my shopping and cooking.

On Sunday I roasted the chicken but at the same time I planned for the leftovers. This started by making the chicken tasty with the use of two different types of stuffing. The first type of stuffing is for the cavity to infuse flavour into the chicken but not to be eaten. To make this you need do little more than roughly chop up an onion, some fresh sage from the garden and a limp piece of celery that is no good for putting in salads anymore. Just drop this inside the bird. The second type of stuffing is for eating so needs more care. One small onion, some fresh sage, salt and pepper and either breadcrumbs or sausagemeat for this one. Finely chop the onion and then the sage in a food processor then mix together with the breadcrumbs (and a little water) or the sausagemeat. I tend to make a large batch of this in one go then divide it into portions and freeze it until required. This stuffing needs to be stuffed into the crop.

The next flavour consideration is the gravy and for this reason I also boiled a leek from the allotment to have with the dinner. When it was almost time to dish up, I made some gravy to go with the meal. This was just the usual Bisto granules but I put in enough to make half a pint of gravy more than we needed for the meal. Rather than just pouring water from the kettle for the gravy, I drained the leek water into the jug and then the water from the carrots too. It is a good idea to use vegetable water to make the gravy as some of the nutrients from the vegetables get leached out into the water so using it returns those nutrients to your meal. In the case of the leeks, it also adds flavour to the meal. Unless everyone in your family likes cabbage, I would avoid doing this with brassica water as it does tend to make the gravy taste like cabbage water! For further flavour, after the chicken was carved, I pour the juices from the meat into the gravy too. A very tasty gravy for the meal and for the leftovers.

That meal we ate both legs and slightly more than half of one breast between us. I do love meat myself but it is worth remembering that a portion of meat for an adult should be roughly the size of a pack of cards and the rest of the meal should be bulked out with vegetables.

On Monday afternoon I took a block of ready made puff pastry out of the fridge to come to room temperature and later that evening I made chicken pies. I make these pies for my girls because, although they like pies, they are a bit fussy about them and there are only certain ones they like. Buying a pie is a bit hit and miss but they always love my homemade pies. They are really easy to make too and I make 12 at a time so they last for weeks before I have to do them again.

Chicken Pies (makes 12)

The meat from a breast of roast chicken
1/2 pint of gravy
1 block of ready made pastry
Egg or milk to glaze

Take the meat from the breast of the roast chicken (or use the leg meat if you prefer to eat the breast for your dinner) and break it into small pieces with your fingers. Put this in a bowl and mix it with the cold gravy (left over from the roast). Cut the pastry block in half and roll it out into a rectangle. Cut the pastry into 6 roughly equal squares. Dollop a tablespoon of the chicken mixture into one half of each piece of pastry. Brush the egg or milk around half of the edge of the pastry then fold the pastry over the top of the filling to completely it. Brush the top edge of the pastry then turn over the edges of the pastry to seal the pie into a pastie shape (about the size of a Findus Crispie Pancake but sooooo much tastier!). Make a couple of vent holes with a knife and brush all over with egg or milk to glaze. Repeat for the second half of the block of pastry and until all the filling is used. Place the pasties on a tray and freeze then remove from the tray and put into labelled bags. Can be cooked from frozen for 20-25 minutes at 200°C, gas 6.

Having fed 4 people with a Sunday roast and made 12 pies, that was 16 meals from one chicken. Just another 4 to go then. There are so many possibilities - chicken soup maybe? I do on occasions boil up the chicken carcass, complete with its tasty cavity stuffy to make chicken stock which would be a good basis of soup or even a casserole so a meal or two from that. But I also picked the chicken over to remove the remaining meat to make chicken spud pies for dinner on Tuesday. This recipe is for 2 but I had just enough meat left to stretch it out to 2 smaller spuds for the girls but for them I mixed a little chicken with a bit of ham and pasta sauce and grated some cheese on top to call it a pizza potato pie instead.

Spud Pies (serves 2)

2 large baked potatoes
About one breast of roasted chicken
A slurp of milk
6-8 mushrooms, quartered
1 small leek, sliced
5 fl oz chicken stock
2 teaspoons of cornflour
Oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bake the potatoes using your preferred method. Turn the oven to 220°C, gas 7. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the potato from the skins. Place the potato in a bowl and mash with the butter, milk and seasoning. Mix the cornflour with a little cold water in a glass. Fry the mushrooms and leeks then pour in the chicken stock and the cornflour. Add the chicken and seasoning and stir until heated through and the sauce thickens. Spoon the chicken mix into the potato skins then top with the mashed potato then place in the oven for 10 minutes until the top of the potato is just beginning to brown. Serve immediately with a salad or hot vegetables.

It was £6 for that particular chicken. I think I got value for money.

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