Monday, June 11, 2012

Cooking for one with one chicken

Alot of the people I know who live alone rarely cook a nice meal for themselves. They feel unless they have a friend over or host a dinner party, a tin of tuna or a toasted cheese sandwich is all they can be bothered to with. I had one friend who actually told me she wasn't worth cooking a whole dinner for.

The problem with this attitude is you can end up eating alot of tinned tuna. Despite the potential mercury overload, it makes for pretty dull eating. If this is what I faced dining on often I think I'd start to gnaw my own leg off with boredom. 

You might not be sufficed with tuna and crave variety, but most of us can't afford to eat out every day. Nor do we want to. If you've ever had the experience of travelling or working away for extended periods staying where you can't cook, you soon get sick of restaurant food. It's really nice to do every now and again, but one can't live on it or takeaway. Plus, if you're like me - off grains and sugar - the options are pretty limited.

I like to cook. Actually, I love it. I'd love it better if I owned a dishwasher (or a Swede who did the dishes rather than sweep the leaves from my non-existent pool) but pretty much every night I find myself home alone I can muster up the motivation to whip up something. It might be a simple dish like a couple of snags and a salad, or some baked eggs with veges. If I have more time I might slow cook pork belly in milk with an apple crumble for dessert. And just to remind you - I'm talking cooking just for myself.

Lately I've become a little obsessed with Sally Fallon and her book Nourishing Traditions. It's a very thought-provoking cookbook and guide to traditional foods. While my nutritionist was the first to make me consider what so-called 'healthy' rice crackers really had in them, Sally has added quite alot of depth. 

So what I'm going to propose here is a multi-day menu for the solo-aboder to try, based using all natural foods and basic ingredients. I know it's a little more time consuming than ordering a pizza, but it's going to sustain you alot longer and will be a zillion times better for you. You'll also not waste a scrap, so it will be really economical. 

1 x organic free range chicken (always by the best ingredients you can afford)
1 x lemon
fresh herbs
3 x carrots
2 x zucchini
1/2 celery
1/4 pumpkin
1 x head of broccoli
Other veges/salad for a side dish
Plain flour (or almond meal + coconut flour if you are gluten free)
Dijon mustard
Vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
Single cream

Dinner one | roast chicken

Do this on a weekend night, or a night you get home early. It's important to do this first, as it sets you up for the other meals.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

1. Cut the lemon in half and put one half on the microwave for about 40 seconds.
2. Wash and dry the chicken. Put it in a lidded roasting pan.
3. Place the warm half of the lemon into the chicken carcass.
4. Mix 3 tbs of mustard with 1 tbs of cider. Brush over the chicken.
5. Sprinkle fresh herbs over the chicken, Season with salt and pepper.
6. Bake in the oven for 30 mins with the lid on.
7. Cut up the pumpkin and 1 carrot and place around the chicken.
8. Bake for another hour (or longer depending on the size of the chicken. Juices when pieced should run clear).

Serve chicken and roast veges with salad or steamed veges. Squeeze the other side of the lemon on the veges.

Pour the fat and juices into a container and place in the fridge. Put the leftover whole chicken in the fridge overnight. 

Dinner two | chicken pie

The next night, this great pie is on the menu. It will make enough for three meals. Take it for lunch!
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

1. Place 1 cup of flour in a food processor (or gluten free alternative).
2. Scrape the solidified chicken fat off the jellied juices and place in the food processor with the flour. Add a tablespoon of butter. 
3. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs. Blitz til you get breadcrumbs.
3. Add a dribble of iced water till the mixture forms a ball.
4. Put in the fridge.

1. Add 1/2 the jellied juices to a frypan.
2. Dice a carrot, a couple of sticks or celery, and a zucchini (keep the vege craps). Sautee in the juices.
3. Remove all the chicken meat from the carcass. Put the carcass to one side.
4. Cut up two cups of chicken meat and add to the sautéing veges.
5. Stir in 1/2 cup cream and one tbs of mustard.

6. Pour the mixture into a small casserole dish.
7. Get the pastry out of the fridge and rollout between 2 sheets of baking paper.
8. Lie the pastry on top of the pie (I sprinkle with sesame seeds), place in the oven and bake for 25 mins.

Serve chicken pie with salad or steamed veges. Sprinkle the veges with a little cider vinegar and mustard whisked together.

If you don't plan to make the soup straight away, freeze the remaining chicken meat.

Chicken pie with kale slaw

Meanwhile... make the chicken stock
1. Place the chicken carcass, vege scraps, a stick of celery and 8 peppercorns in a slow cooker or dutch oven with the remained jellied chicken juices. Cover with water
2. Cook on low (overnight in slow cooker) or for 2-5 hours (the longer the better) on the stovetop with the lid on.
3. Strain the stock from the solids. Throw the solids away, freeze the stock in 2 cup batches. If you're over chicken by now, freezing the stock means you can make the soup at a later date. 

Slow cooker stock
Dinner three | chicken soup

The final meal is chicken soup. 

To make the soup:
1. Add 1 tbs butter to a large saucepan (or dutch oven).
2. Add diced carrot, zucchini, celery. Sautee until translucent.
3. Add the remaining chicken, chopped.
4. Defrost the chicken stock in the microwave, add to the pot with some salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 mins.
6. Add roughly chopped broccoli and fresh herbs. Cook for another 10-15 mins.
7. For a chunky soup, serve as is or stab a couple of times with a stick blender. For a smooth soup, blend until smooth.

There you have it. Three delicious meals (actually more!) from one chook and some veges. You could substitute with lamb or beef. I've done the same with a whole fish also. 

So solo people, reject John West. Get busy in the kitchen - because you're worth it!

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