My name is Lucy, and as this is the first of what I hope to be many articles for Women Make Waves, let me begin by saying hello! It’s wonderful to be a part of this fantastic website. Here’s a little bit about me: I graduated from university last month, having spent four years studying Drama and Italian, and I’m currently working part-time in a cake shop while figuring out what I want to do career-wise. Writing has recently become a viable option for this, so when I found Women Make Waves I decided to bite the bullet, submit some articles and see where it took me!
I was honestly a bit worried about joining this website as a food writer – I’m not a professional, just a young woman with a head full of recipe ideas and nowhere near as many fancy kitchen gadgets as I’d like! A lot of my cooking experience came from living independently during my degree and having a lot of time on my hands, which I would use to experiment in the kitchen and develop recipes – much to the chagrin of my housemates, although they usually stopped complaining when I let them have a share of the spoils! At the moment my food writing consists of my baking blog ‘Lucy in the Pie’, but I really want to branch out and cover other aspects of cooking, including growing your own food at home, and cooking with the seasons to make the most of what our country’s fields have to offer. My dream is to one day publish a cookbook of my own, but for now I’ll be explaining my recipes, along with some helpful background knowledge and kitchen tricks, with the aim of hopefully getting some very helpful feedback and experience.
For this article, I’ll be looking more closely at the economical side of home cooking – I hate the idea of wasting food because you’re not used to cooking with it, so I’m going to try and see just how far I can make my shopping go in the kitchen. At the moment, I’m limited to a fairly tight budget, which has driven me to experiment and see what I can make from what we already have, instead of buying in new ingredients whenever I fancy something different.
Last weekend, my fiancé and I decided to do something we hadn’t done for ages, and make a proper Sunday roast. We already had most of the ingredients, so after buying a bag of carrots and a whole chicken, we set to creating a lovely dinner. It was then that we decided to try something we hadn’t really done before – just how far could we stretch this chicken? We theorised that we could get at least three good meals and a decent stock from one bird, which was certainly a big ol’ tick in the economising column for us. A few days later, we’ve managed to come up with three delicious meals:
Preheat your oven to 190°C conventional/170°C fan/Gas Mark 5, and pour some olive oil into a roasting tin. Cut about 50g/1oz of salted butter into pieces, then place your chicken in the prepared tin and rub the butter over the skin. Any leftover butter can be pressed into gaps between the legs or placed inside the cavity.
Season the chicken with a liberal sprinkling of salt, pepper, and dried rosemary (you can also put some sprigs of rosemary inside the chicken, to help the meat absorb more of the flavour), then place it in the oven. The chicken we bought weighed 1.35kg, which equated to about 1½ hours of cooking time, but it varies depending on the size of the bird. A good rule to stick with is 25 minutes per 500g, plus an extra 25-30 minutes. You can tell when the chicken is cooked by inserting a clean skewer into the meat and letting the juices run out – if the juices are clear, it’s done.
Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes, covered in tinfoil and tucked in with a teatowel, which allows the juices to settle back into the meat and results in an extra-tender, extra-tasty bird. We served our roast chicken with roast potatoes, carrots, peas, and gravy, but what you serve it with is up to you. When the chicken is cold, get stuck in with your hands and strip as much meat from the carcass as you can, which allows you to go on and make more tasty dishes!
Pasta with shredded chicken and sundried tomatoes
Boil a large handful of pasta per person, and slice up some sundried tomatoes, patting them off with kitchen paper to remove the excess oil. When the pasta is cooked, drain it off, then mix it up with the tomatoes and as much chicken as you want.
Fry off a diced onion in a pan with a splash of olive oil, then add three teaspoons of curry powder (you can add more if you like your curry a bit hotter). Add the chicken and give it a stir, then pour in about 300ml of chicken stock and let it simmer. When the liquid has reduced by about half, add some frozen peas, a large splash of cream, and a tablespoon of mango chutney, and mix it all together. Serve with basmati rice.
For this, you need about 500g of leftover chicken, chopped into thin pieces. Cook it together with a can of chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of salsa, and about 1½ teaspoons of chilli powder, then let it cool. Spoon the cooled filling into four tortilla wraps (this recipe serves two people) and place into a rectangular ovenproof dish. Pour any leftover sauce over the top, sprinkle liberally with grated cheese and bake at 200°C conventional/180°C fan/Gas Mark 6 for 20-25 minutes.
The possibilities are endless, really, but these are some of my favourite ideas for using up your chicken. You can even use the bones of the chicken to make stock, by placing them in a large saucepan with vegetables like chopped onion, carrot, and celery, pouring over enough cold water to cover everything and simmering it with the lid on for around 2-6 hours. When the stock is ready, strain it through a sieve/colander, and it can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days. Alternatively, freeze portions in freezer bags and defrost them individually when future recipes call for a really good stock.
And there you have it! A roast chicken is not just for Sunday; you can make it go a lot further with a little bit of culinary know-how.