How to … Make the Most of an Extraordinary Organic Chicken from Roots
With wasted food now considered to be at a level of 40%, a shocking statistic, and wasted energy depleting our natural resources, home cooks can make a significant contribution to protecting our environmental security. The choices we make about the food we buy and the way we cook it are all important. Moreover, the opportunity to teach our children good food habits, lessons they learn for life, will help to protect us and them in the future. I’ve written about a Roots Roast Chicken Dinner before and make no apology for mentioning it again, as nothing comforts and satisfies my family more, but this time with a few ideas that will help you to make the most of a family favourite.
Perfect Roast Chicken
Begin with a hot oven, 200°C. Prepare the bird (taking out the packet of giblets from the cavity) snipping the string that holds the legs and stuffing a peeled and quartered onion, half a lemon and large handful of herbs into the cavity, sage is traditional, but parsley and thyme also work well. Place the bird on a heavy bottomed roasting tray, scrunch salt and pepper over the breast and legs and pour a mug of water into the tray, keeping the bird moist during cooking and getting the gravy off to a good start. Place the bird in the hot oven for 20 minutes then turn the oven down a little to 180°C and cook for a further 30 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes. Once cooked remove the chicken from the roasting tray and allow it to ‘rest’ for 10 minutes or so before carving. To make gravy mix 3 tsps cornflour and a good pinch of mustard powder with a little cold water and tip into the cooking juices. With the heat on low use a small whisk to bring the gravy together letting down the gravy with stock from the boiled giblets or vegetable cooking water. Keep whisking until the gravy thickens.
A Supper and a Soup
Strip the remaining meat from the carcass and put aside. As a large family we often roast two chickens together (making the most of the hot oven to prepare more food at once). Scrape the remaining carcass, bones, skin, jelly into a deep saucepan, add a freshly peeled and chopped onion, one carrot and two celery sticks plus more fresh herbs if available. Very slowly bring this pot to a gentle simmer, an occasional bubble, NOT a rolling boil which is the trick to producing a beautifully clear stock. After one hour strain the stock and reserve the liquor. This can be reduced if necessary, with further gentle simmering.
Choose and prepare fresh seasonal vegetable, onions, carrots, celery are always a good base. Prepare enough to cover the bottom of two saucepans (one for soup, one for supper), sautéing them until the vegetables are soft but not coloured.
For the supper continue by adding fresh chopped tomatoes (or tinned tomato), a handful of olives, chopped garlic and chilli (optional). Add a splash of chicken stock and simmer until all the vegetables are soft, add some torn chicken and warm through. Season to taste and serve stirred into pasta with shaved parmesan over the top.
For the soup continue by adding more vegetables, potatoes and leeks are ideal, the remaining chicken stock and water if necessary, covering the vegetables. Bring to the simmer and allow the veg to cook fully. If available torn kale or cabbage leaves can be added towards the end of cooking to steam in the final moments, season and serve, an energy boosting, spirit lifting bowl of goodness.