My roast chicken and a soup for the day after…….

January 10, 2010

What a first week!!!! Despite all that snow we seem to have managed to get all our deliveries done but it really didn’t look like likely… At one stage it seemed like we’d have to completely shut down next week (now I think it’ll probably be ok and I’ve gone ahead and ordered from suppliers so my fingers are crossed!!).

This week’s cooking  ideas are not what I thought I’d be talking about after the 10 day overeating fest that was Christmas. It was supposed to be all about lean cuisine and that sort of thing. But when it’s this cold  that just seems wrong . I mean it’s snowing (and besides,I read somewhere that you burn more fat when it’s really cold and I’m hoping that’ll sort out the Christmas damage). Anyway, we’re starting with a  bag of fresh organic fruit and veg so how crazilly unhealthy can it get? So, while this week is not about doing a master cleanse, over the upcoming weeks I will be reminding you (and myself) about the healthier ways to eat and cook.

I rarely cook meat and practically never write about it but this weekend cried out for the comfort of a roast chicken dinner so that’s what I’m sharing. My version isn’t a completely traditional one. I roast my bird  surrounded with veggies (usually a couple of Onions thickly cut, a roughly chopped Pepper or two, some quartered tomatoes) which I then use to make  a gravy with so the gravy is a bit of a main event which means that you don’t have to do lots or any veg if you don’t want to. I don’t do much to the bird, just anoint it with a little Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper. Then I put a tiny bit of oil on the base of the roasting pan, add the veg, cover in tinfoil and roast for whatever time the bird needs, taking off the tinfoil half through. The chicken takes about 1 3/4 hours generally which makes it the kind of cooking I love – relaxed and moochy. Sometimes I throw in half a dozen cloves of garlic after the tinfoil comes off (they’d burn if I put them in at the start) sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I add herbs sometimes … I don’t. It’s that kind of thing. If you want to completely relax for the whole cooking time you can just serve the bird with the yummy roast veg and some plain boiled rice and forego gravy altogether. Even easier is a loaf of bread. But you can (and I generally do) roast spuds. Parboil peeled spuds about half an hour after the chicken goes in, drain them then give them a good shake in the pot to make the edges fluffy  (this is what gives you the nice crispy bits). Heat some vegetable, coconut or goose fat in a roasting  tray then toss the spuds in it and put them in the oven. Give them a shake every time you check the chicken and after you’ve taken it out, turn up the oven and give them about 10-15 to really crisp up before you serve. Don’t worry about the chicken going cold , it won’t and besides, like all meat ,it’s always better to let it sit for at least 10 minutes before you serve it. And there’s gravy to be made. To do this, I take the chicken out of the roasting tray then try to get as much fat out too. This is tricky when you’ve got all the veg. I generally drain the juices into a glass and leave it to stand somewhere cold for a few minutes (utility room or outside the back door if it’s not raining or snowing) then drain off the fat which rises to the top and thickens. To make the gravy, open a bottle of red if you haven’t already and put the roasting dish on the cooker over 2 rings turned on to medium. Allow the juices on the pan to warm up but be careful not to burn them. Add a glass of wine and turn up the heat a little to be sure that all the wine burns off. Now add about 3/4 litre of stock. Ideally this would be your own chicken stock (more on this below) but it can also be a  bought one or a Marigold veg one. If I’m boiling or steaming veg for the meal that water always goes in too. This week’s broccoli and/or carrots would be perfect but as usual, it really depends on what you feel like/how many you’re feeding and that sort of thing. If you’ve never made gravy before, all the liquid is now cooked down over a medium heat to about half of what it was. This isn’t the end. Gravy needs to be thickened and I do this with cornflower. I know a lot of people use a roux and even more use Bisto but I worked with someone in Barcelona who thickened all sauces with cornflower and I got used to it and think that it works very well.  Take about 2 teaspoons of cornflower and mix them with less than half a cup of cold water. Cornflower is only ever added to boiling liquid so turn up the heat if you have to, add the cornflower and water, stir well and the gravy will thicken straight away. If it’s still too thin for your liking mix up a little more cornflower and go again but remember that it’s like salt, very hard to undo if you add too much. Right, you have your gravy, the roasters and whatever veg. Cut up the chicken and eat!!!

Now for a bit on frugal living: Never, ever throw away the carcass of a chicken, it’s for stock and this is an absolute cinch to make. All you do is gather up all the bones (yes from everyone’s plate – it’s going to be boiled so don’t be grossed out) throw into a large pot, cover with water, add a couple of carrots, a leek or an onion (if you don’t have any of these don’t panic – go ahead anyway) Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for about an hour the cool completely. Drain the liquid and use for soup, risotto, whatever either  right away or freeze in 2 parts and use the next time you’re doing roast chicken for extra fab gravy!

You’ll probably have some chicken left over and you could make a very simple soup for lunch the next day. Before you make your stock pick any leftover chicken from the carcass and set aside. Make your stock as above and while it’s doing gently fry an onion until it is completely soft and has turned golden, add a few roughly chopped cloves of garlic halfway through (so say after about 15 minutes) and some Chilli. When the Onion and Garlic are done, rinse a tin of chickpeas and throw them in. Your stock should be done at this stage. Take out the carrots, dice them and throw them in after the chickpeas then drain the stock and add that. To serve, top with some croutons or chopped Parsley.

This week’s beetroot would also go very well with roast chicken. Forget the other veg  just rub the bird with Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper. Beetroot takes ages to cook so you need to get it in the oven earlier than the spuds. Scrub the heads and bring them to boil then simmer for about 20 minutes. After this drain it and let it cool enough for you to quarter it. Toss in hot Oil (as before veg or coconut) and put in the oven on a roasting tray. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar about 20 minutes before they come out. Serve with a simple salad of this week’s lamb’s lettuce. Very very easy but completely satisfying and no evil carbs!!

Beetroot has many amazing properties and can be used to make all kinds of cleansing juices. I’ve been having it with oranges and carrots which balance out that earthiness with their sweetness. Try 1 medium beetroot with 2 carrots and 2 oranges. It’s not quite kale and red cabbage – yes, the master cleanse is indeed a serious (and somewhat bitter) affair but I promise you’ll feel great after it. If you’d like more juicing tips and recipes check out the post below and I will be doing more in the upcoming weeks.

Stay warm and don’t slip!!
Sarah

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