Everybody knows that January is a miserably broke affair. A month spent scraping the very dregs of your bank account, pushing the limits of your credit and courting the ever diminishing good grace of your bank manager. However, what is often much forgotten (or much belied), is the similarly barren nature of February. Checking out my bank account this morning I can already see that frugality is going to be the name of the game this month. So, with that in mind, here is my favourite modestly-priced meal for when I want to have a frugal feast (or two) without sacrificing on taste.
I hardly ever buy chicken breasts anymore. Over-priced and in many ways inferior to the legs and thighs, they just don’t seem worth it. However, when I fancy chicken, I often turn to the old trusty Monday-night roast chicken, followed the next night by chicken noodle soup, featuring of course stock made from the chicken carcass. It might seem like a bother, but it really isn’t and once you’ve stocked up with a few store-cupboard essentials it is cheap as chips too.
I also happen to think it’s 100% worth buying freedom food endorsed chicken – and if you’re getting two meals out of it (and chicken stock) then there’s even more reason to spend that little teensy bit extra 🙂
You can roast your chicken with any flavourings you like really. I usually try to use up whatever I’ve got lying around. My most common method is to rub the skin with olive oil, salt and pepper. Squeeze some lemon into the cavity, sprinkle in some sea salt and pepper, then stuff with thyme or rosemary sprigs, lemon zest (in slivers rather than grated), bay leaves, a few cloves of crushed garlic (still with their skins on) and some parsley stalks. Then I pop in half the squeezed lemon to keep all the flavours in. Then I give the chicken a quick 20-minute blast at 210°C, before turning down to 180 and roasting until cooked through (I check by piecing the chicken with a skewer at the thickest point between the leg and the breast and making sure the juices run clear).
Is there anything better on a Monday night? I serve one of the chicken breasts and the leg meat (reserving the other whole breast for my noodle soup) usually with roasties, two veg and some magnificent gravy made from the cooking juices.
Chicken stock for an Asian-style noodle soup
- Chicken carcass
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- spring onions, whole
- 5 or 6 whole cloves of garlic with skins on, crushed
- 3 star anise
- a thumb-sized piece of ginger
- around 10 peppercorns
- coriander stalks
That night, I strip the chicken of all the remaining meat and set aside in a bowl (cover it with cling-film and refrigerate), then I pop the carcass into a large heavy-bottomed pan with some spring onions, chopped carrot, ginger, garlic, star anise, coriander stalks, salt and peppercorns, cover with cold water and bring to the boil.
Then simmer gently for a few hours, skimming off any scum every now and again, until you have a lovely clear stock.
Once it’s ready, pour through a fine sieve into a jug. Keep refrigerated until you need it.
Chicken noodle soup
- Remaining meat from roast chicken, shredded
- 1 litre chicken stock
- a thumb of peeled ginger, chopped into small chopsticks
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped into little chopsticks
- a small bunch of spring onions, trimmed and sliced lengthways
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 1 star anise
- cinnamon stick
- a few peppercorns
- 2-3 tbsp fish sauce
- 2-3 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1-2 tbsp mirin (rice wine)
- 2 bundles of udon noodles
- a handful of coriander, roughly chopped
- 1 red chilli, finely sliced.
This is a concoction of my own invention, so probably completely inauthentic and not quite right, but it’s really quite yummy!
Pour your chicken stock into a heavy-bottomed pan and add your ginger, carrot, star anise, cinnamon, garlic, peppercorns and half the spring onions. Bring slowly to the boil and then add the fish sauce, soy sauce and mirin and taste. You might need to add a little more of one of other of these sauces to your own taste.
Leave to simmer for a 5 minutes or so, then add your noodles and shredded chicken.
Once the chicken has warmed through and the noodles are al dente (around 7-10 minutes), remove the cinnamon stick and star anise. Then divide between two bowls and sprinkle over your roughly chopped coriander and as much or as little of the chopped chilli as you like.
Nb. the below pictures don’t have any chilli on as I forgot to sprinkle them (idiot). I added them when we had started eating and the pics were not pretty.