The stockpot is on. And in a good few hours there’ll be a fresh batch of chicken stock to use in soups, risottos or casseroles.
There is nothing quite like making stock (chicken or any other type) to make you feel virtuous, in fact there’s a danger of becoming smug about the whole thing. You’re getting maximum value from something in a way that would make your grandparents proud and you’re going to get extra special compliments on all the dishes you use it in; not because people know, but because they really can taste what it adds to the dish in its wonderful background way (kind of like a book printed on particularly nice paper). Soup made with proper stock really is on another level – anyone who ever says in a soup recipe use stock or water as if there is little difference is absolutely missing the point in my book.
But before you get carried away with the idea of stock making let’s just check in with some basics.
Do you have a big enough pan? If you only have a small saucepan then I’m sorry but making stock is not on the cards for the time being. You need something large enough to hold the broken up chicken carcass along with the vegetables we’ll be adding and up to around 3 litres of water. So pretty big – roughly 22-24cm in diameter or more. The pan in the pictures below is 28cm in diameter. There’s lots of lovely pans out there but there’s also no need to go mad. A great pot will last you for years and will be really useful for pasta, big batches of chilli, ragu and casseroles. As an example IKEA do a 5l stainless steel pot for about £17 and I’m sure there’s plenty more reasonably priced options out there – as with any kitchen kit though do go for the best you can afford today.
Have you got enough space to store the stock? You’re going to end up with between 1.5l and 2.5l (about 3-6 pints) of stock so think about where you are going to keep it. The ideal choice is to freeze most of it but if you’ve only got an ice box rather than a freezer then it could prove a little difficult. It will keep fine in the fridge but you’d need to use it within a week.
Have you got time? In many ways it doesn’t take long and you don’t have to constantly attend to it but on the other hand it will need to be simmered for at least 2 hours so don’t decide to make it when you know you need to go and collect the dry cleaning in half an hour. Anyway you won’t want to go out once its cooking because the smell will be so delicious you’ll just want to stay in and do some more of that ‘stock smug’ feeling thing.
Have you got something to strain it through? A colander is fine if that’s what you’ve got – it’ll take out the big/medium debris. Some people like to strain it through something finer, even muslin to get the smaller bits out and create a clearer stock. A fine gauge colander or a sieve you won’t be using for flour is good.
Okay so lets get going.
Get the chicken carcass and any bones you’ve saved from using up the leftovers so far. Strip all the good useful meat of the carcass but don’t be too fussy about this – leaving some meat on the bones will add to the flavour of the final stock. Bung all the bones, any really scrappy meat, the carcass and the skin i.e. anything chicken-y, into the stockpot.
Next add the vegetables and herbs that are going to help flavour things. Read any cookery book and even if they tell you that you shouldn’t be using leftover roast (ignore them, they are wrong, stick with me, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall) they will tell you to add the pretty much holy trinity of onion, carrot and leek – so do that. One medium onion (in quarters), a couple of reasonable size carrots cut in chunks (no need to peel unless you can’t manage to get all the soil off any other way) and a leek (all of it except the very bottom – no throwing those green tops away) again cut into chunks and rinsed so you don’t get sandy soil in the stock. Also good to add is celery – a couple of stacks – chunks again. On the herb/spice front you need some whole black peppercorns (6 or so), a bay leaf or two and a spring of parsley or thyme.
Pour on the water so everything is just covered – the tighter you pack the pot the less water you’ll need and the richer the end result. Less than 1.5l and you’re likely to have missed something out from the pot (so check because no chicken carcass = no chicken stock), more than 3l and its not really going to be that flavoursome.
Bring it up to the boil. You might get some horrid looking scummy froth rising up – scoop it out. And then cover and simmer for anything from 2-5 hours depending on the richness you want to achieve and the time available between starting and needing to do something else – like sleep or use the stock to make your dinner.
That’s pretty much it for a while. Check up on it every now and then and top up the water if it’s looking a bit low.
Once it’s done, allow it to cool and strain it – maybe straight into the tubs you’ll freeze it in. Use the size of tub that you’ll need your stock to be in later. Quite good are the tubs that fresh soup comes in at the supermarket – eat the soup, wash the tub, refill with stock, confident that you won’t need to be buying soup from the supermarket again anytime soon.
What to have for a quick and tasty solo lunch at home?
Often its down to what’s in the cupboards and fridge – it doesn’t make much sense to want something quick but need to go to the shops first to get ingredients (well possibly if you live right next door to a good shop then it just might but otherwise its going to slow the whole thing down somewhat).
So today we found eggs and bread and tomatoes. Ah ha that’ll be scrambled eggs on toast with some grilled or sauté tomatoes.
Its as easy as 123 (and just possibly 4):
1: Get the tomatoes on to grill or sauté
2: Eggs in a jug or bowl, splash of milk, salt, pepper, whisk lightly with a fork
3: Start the bread toasting
4: Melt butter, scramble eggs
Its all ready – get it on the plate – EAT (or in my case take a quick photo first – some of the blogging stuff is just a bit weird!).
Quicker to cook than it was to eat – just the job.
Today its time to use the rest of the roast chicken. Its going to be a chicken and mushroom pie for dinner and a big batch of stock. So off to get any missing ingredients and prepare for a lovely afternoon of cooking (and delicious aromas filling the house).
Come back later to check on how things are progressing.
So what have we done so far with our roast chicken leftovers (apart from store them safely in the fridge of course)?
Well one of the favourite options is to rustle up a quick curry – always good whether you go for a creamy or a tomato based option. Probably not very authentic but WAY BETTER than anything you’ll get in a supermarket heat and eat; and believe me I know, I’ve tried a lot of heat and eat curry in my time searching for one that’s vaguely good. They are few and far between. Even if the supermarket recipe started out more authentic it’ll never taste quite as fresh and zingy as something you do yourself. So next time you’ve some leftover chicken gives this recipe a whirl and your taste buds a treat.
We went for a tomato based option and did a side of chickpeas and purple sprouting broccoli (because we happened to have a few bits of the latter lurking in the fridge drawer).
First the chicken curry…..
(enough for two – scale up with the chicken meat for greater numbers and add some water if there’s 4 of you, more tomatoes if there’s six – we could have made enough for six with the meat we had left but decided to save it for later in the week).
The pan: we always use some kind of low sided sauté type pan for curry as this helps the sauce thicken faster than a regular sauce pan would – which is quite important.
The onion: we pretty much always start by frying up an onion fairly finely chopped so its starts to colour but not get too dark (it can get bitter if it over colours though I have found a great curry recipe with really crispy onion but I’ll save that for another post).
The spices: then we add the spices which are a mix of mostly freshly ground and a few ready prepared; we just go with the flow of what we fancy taste wise and how hot we want it to be (this last point always being up for a bit of debate as I’m a bit of a curry wimp when it comes to the chilli content). This time we used coriander and cumin seeds, ground turmeric, dried chili flakes and a chopped fresh red chilli. We toss the spices with the onions for about a minute to start to release the flavours – boy does it start to smell lovely.
Tomatoes: we add a tin of chopped tomatoes and raise the heat so it all starts to simmer down.
The chicken: as the tomatoes begin to bubble quite vigorously we add the chicken meat, which I’ve pulled off from one of the legs and cut into smallish chunks.
We leave this to bubble away fairly rapidly, keeping an eye out and stirring every so often to prevent it catching on the pan bottom.
While that’s working its curry magic we get the chick peas and sprouting broccoli on the go, cutting the latter up into small florets and tossing with the chick peas, a tiny bit of water and a few twists from a garam masala spice mill plus a good dollop of greek yoghurt to coat everything. This cooks away and thickens whilst we pop on the basmati rice and get some bowls warming.
The chicken curry needs a good 20- 30 minutes of swift bubbling to get the chicken heated through and the sauce nice and concentrated, the chick peas and broccoli need about 15 minutes cooking (thought they’ll survive more if the timings go a bit awry) and the basmati needs 10 minutes boiling and few minutes after its drained to help fluff up.
Then its into the waiting bowls, to the table and dive in for a tasty curry experience. Pretty good all round authentic or not.
Oh and there still at least two meals left on the chicken before we even get to thinking about maybe making stock.
Did last nights chicken live up to expectations?
It was tasty and moist, a good crispy skin and the stuffing was nicely spiced – although my husband thought we were having a rice stuffing in homage to the cricket (England v West Indies) – quite!
Cooking time wise it had 25 minutes at Gas 7 (220C/425F) followed by 90 minutes at Gas 5 (190C/375F) being 20 minutes per pound/450g of weight excluding the stuffing. I’ve found this method works well and with a large chicken comes out pretty spot on each time. A smaller chicken (less than about 3lb) may need up to 20 minutes extra, but I’d always recommend going for the largest chicken you can get so you have plenty of leftovers.
We carved it by first removing both legs and then taking off one side of the breast meat in one piece and then slicing it cross wise, this is trick my husband picked up from a Jamie Oliver TV show and is much easier than slicing the breast in the traditional way. On this size of chicken we shared this one side and that leaves us 2 legs, the other breast and the carcass for all sorts of goodies later in the week.
No pictures of it plated up sorry but was too keen to dig in and eat
Roast chicken for dinner tonight. Oh yes bring it on!
As you can guess I LOVE roast chicken. It’s got to be in the Top 5 and its probably right on up there at the number one slot. Soooooo delicious whatever you pair it with. And the all time favourite choice of birthday treat dish for me as a kid.
Of course my grandma cooked a really top-notch roast chicken and trimmings – but who’s Gran didn’t (and no way would you admit to it if they didn’t hey)? And, even though I say so myself, I think she passed on some of that skill onto me (quite how I don’t know because we never cooked roast chicken together – scones maybe but not a roast); it must be in the genes.
Tonight’s chicken is ORGANIC (more about this in a later post). So we’ll be making it last quite a few meals and that’s part of the joy of a roast chicken, how far can you stretch it – keep checking back this week to find out what we do with it all (its 4.5lb and there’s only two of us).
I’ve stuffed it with some parboiled basmati rice mixed with lemon zest, crushed coriander seeds, chilli flakes, pine nuts and a few sultanas (inspired by recipes in The Legendary Cuisine of Persia). It’s been drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil (or possibly drenched in the case of the latter – oops) and sprinkled with black pepper and Maldon salt.
Now that’s what I call oven ready chicken.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term ‘butty’ the OED defines it as follows:
butty (also buttie) noun (pl. butties) informal, chiefly N. English a filled or open sandwich: a bacon butty. – ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from BUTTER+-Y.
Or perhaps think about Ken Dodd for a moment and the jam butty mines – or maybe don’t. Also, of course, there are chip butties and cheese butties. In essence any kind of sandwich can be called a butty although I’m not sure you’d apply the term to something filled with chicken and avocado or crayfish and rocket or cucumber…..now there’s a thought a cucumber butty – a new slant on afternoon tea.
Anyway back on the bacon butty trail – this morning I had a great example rustled up for breakfast from some beer cured back bacon, some sautéed portobello mushrooms, a good dollop of ketchup (my favourite Stokes Real Ketchup – yum) and 2 slices of properly chewy wholemeal.
It was great.
But then I’m probably biased as I made it.