Friday, July 04, 2008

Stretching the Budget

Today, and over the next few days, will be concentrating on 'making the most of...' today being chicken (as well as a few other suggestions). As ever, vegetarians can adapt a recipe to use a chicken (or other meat) substitute. Ideally, always buy chicken whole, not in portions, then use up every scrap. Once the chicken has been portioned it can be left as-is, or the skin and bones removed. These should always be used to make stock, along with the main carcase. Although the skin is something you feel should be discarded, it does have flavour, and - as mentioned before - if cooked with the bones will form a layer of fat on top of the jellied stock once chilled. This is an excellent 'free fat' that can be used for frying. Some cooks use it instead of lard when making pastry for chicken pies.
If not in the mood for stock-making, then bag up the bits, freeze and wait until another bird comes along and then you can make an even richer stock. If not using the chicken wings to make stock, freeze and add more as you get them, after several weeks they will make a dish in their own right. A recipe for these is given below.

This first recipe is for chicken pie, and uses cooked chicken. The pastry, as mentioned above could be made using chicken fat. By all means use less chicken and more of the vegetables - and these can be altered according to what we have. Personally I would omit the parsnip and add a couple of tablespoons of sweetcorn kernels. As ever, just add up the total weight of the ingredients, then make up to the same weight according to what you have, so the portions remain the same (the posh name for this is portion control).

Still cutting costs, a low-fat pastry is used in this recipe, but ordinary short or puff pastry could be used. You could even top the pie with mashed potato, dumplings or 'cobblers' (aka savoury scones).
Chicken Pie: serves 4
10 oz (300g) cooked chicken, cut into chunks
16 fl.oz (500ml) chicken stock
2 large potatoes, chopped
8 oz (225g) sweet potato or butternut squash, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
1 tblsp cornflour
8 fl.oz milk (skimmed is fine)
5 oz (150g) frozen peas, thawed
1 tblsp each chopped parsley and chives
low-fat pastry:
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour, sifted
1 oz (25g) butter
3 fl oz (75ml) milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
sesame seeds (optional)
Put the stock into a pan and add the potato, sweet potato (or b.squash), celery and carrot. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until just tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove veggies, and set these aside. To the stock in the pan, add the onions. Simmer for 10 minutes, then pour contents of the pan into a food processor, add the herbs and blitz to a puree. Stir the cornflour into 2 tblsp of the milk, then add this with the remaining milk to the puree, and return to the pan. Stir over low heat until just boiling, simmer for one minute until thickened.
Mix the reserved vegetables and chicken pieces into this sauce and pour into four individual or one large oven proof dish.
Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour. Make a well in the centre and add the milk with just enough water to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out dough cutting to fit dishes used plus half inch larger than the top of dish(es) used. Brush the top and outer rim of the dish(es) with beaten egg and place pastry over the pie(s), pressing the edges on and round firmly to seal.
Brush top(s) with remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using). Bake for about 20 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6, until the top is golden.

This next makes use of those chicken wings that have been collected and frozen over the weeks. The sauce itself can be made with similar but different ingredients, to make it easy these have been bracketed at the side of the original ingredient. A good sauce to make when you have that dollop of ketchup sitting at the bottom of the almost empty bottle, remove the lid, upturn the bottle, stand it in a glass and let the gravity do the work. After half an hour (even leave it overnight) all the sauce should have drained out - if not, it will have collected in the neck and can be squeezed out. Never throw away even the last vestige of sauce in a bottle. Pour in a little water, put the lid back on and give a good shake, it will then pour out easily and can then be added to a casserole, spag.bol, or chilli.
The original recipe used 3 lb of wings, and this amount almost put me off writing up the recipe, so have adapted this, and suggest we forget the weight, just decide how many wings per person we wish to serve, and then work with this as a guide.
Asian Wings: serves 6
chicken wings, number as required
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped (optional)
2 fl.oz (50ml) hoisin sauce (or plum jam)
3 tsp light soy sauce (or dark soy)
3 tsp runny honey (or thick honey or g.syrup)
2 tblsp tomato puree (or ketchup)
1 tsp sesame oil (or walnut oil, or olive oil)
2 spring onions, finely sliced (or 1 shallot or small onion)
Putting the wings to one side, put the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Put the wings into a shallow dish and pour the marinade over, turning the wings so they are coated, then cover and chill for at least two hours - or they could be left in the fridge overnight.
The wings can then be barbecued or char-grilled, cooking for 20-25 minutes, turning once, and basting with some of the marinade during the cooking. Alternatively, the wings can be baked in the oven for about half an hour (turning once) at 180C, 350F, gas 4. Heat any remaining marinade in a pan to full boiling point (for it will contain raw chicken juices), then this can be served as a sauce.

We normally expect chilli con carne to be made with beef, but it is just as good made with minced chicken. If wishing to use raw chicken flesh taken from a bird (and off the bone), the dark meat works very well, and if no mincer, then give it a quick blitz in a food processor, or just chop it very finely (preferably do this on a plate so that no juices get worked into the chopping board). The chocolate is optional, but very traditional in Mexico, and strangely gives the chicken quite a 'beefy' look. Although this recipe does use oil, it is less than would be used normally. If using a non-stick pan, use even less. Instead of oil, use chicken fat. If you wish to use less chicken, add more onion and red beans.
Chilli con Pollo: serves 4
bare tblsp olive or sunflower oil
2 onions, finely chopped
12 oz (350g) minced chicken
1 - 2 tsp chilli powder
440g can chopped tomatoes
1 good tblsp tomato puree/paste
4 fl.oz (125ml) water
1 - 2 tsp sugar
425g can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 square dark chocolate (or 1 dessp cocoa) (opt)
Using a deep frying pan, heat the oil and fry the onion for a few moments until softened. Stir in the chicken, breaking up the mince with a wooden spoon so it doesn't clump together, and cook until browned.
Stir in the chilli powder and cook for one minute before adding the chopped tomatoes, the tomato paste and the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour, then stir in the sugar and the chocolate (or cocoa). Simmer for a further minute then add the beans. When heated through serve with tortilla chips, a cool dollop of Greek yogurt on top, and a side salad if you wish.

This next dish uses chicken thighs, again rather generous with the meat for - as so often happens with older cookbooks - they seem to expect anything up to 8 oz meat per serving, when nutritionally we can get away with half that. Even less if other protein is served. Removing the meat from the bone, and cutting the flesh into three makes it look a lot more, so worth doing. As the beans in this dish also contain a certain amount of vegetable protein, why over-egg the pudding I say? This is a great dish for adapting as cous-cous, barley risotto, or quinoa could accompany the dish instead of the suggested rice. Also different varieties of cooked beans could be used, several different beans in the one dish, why not? As to the white wine - diluted white wine vinegar is almost as good, or use a little diluted orange or lemon juice instead. Gardeners will love this dish as one of the ingredients is courgettes, and we are always desperate to find new ways to use them up. So a further suggestion, use less meat and more courgettes and beans. If you want to cut costs, this is the way to do it.
Hob-Top Chicken: serves 4 (F)
1 dessp olive or sunflower oil
8 chicken thighs, or 4 boned and chopped
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tblsp white wine
8 fl.oz (250ml) chicken stock
1 tsp lemon zest
1 bay leaf
2 x 400g cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 - 4 courgettes, halved lengthways, then sliced diagonally
Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish or deep frying pan. Fry the thighs a few at a time, for about four minutes, turning occasionally until browned all over. Remove and set to one side. Add the onion to the pan and fry for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the garlic, fry for a further minute, then add the wine and stock. Scrape the bottom of the dish to loosen the bits that have stuck, these help to flavour the stock. Bring to the boil, return the chicken to the pan, add the bay leaf and lemon zest. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30 - 40 minutes until the chicken is tender. Stir in the beans and the courgettes and cook for five more minutes or until the courgettes are tender. When cooked this can be chilled and stored in zip-top bags or an airtight container to freeze up to 3 months. Thaw then reheat thoroughly. Serve with boiled rice.

This next recipe comes from a very old book and somehow it appealed to me. Because of the way it is made and cooked, chicken seems the best meat to use, as other meat may need longer and slower cooking. Perhaps this is the early version of a burger devised by someone who 'likes a bit of rough'.
Meat Rock Cakes:
8 oz (225g) finely chopped meat (suggest chicken)
1 grated onion
2 oz (50g) plain flour
1 oz suet (can be omitted if the meat is fatty)
salt and pepper
a little gravy to mix
Mix together the meat, onion, suet, meat and seasoning to taste. Moisten with gravy to the consistency of a rock cake mixture. Place on a greased baking tin in rough heaps. Bake in a fairly brisk oven (suggest 2ooC, 400F, gas 6 - or maybe 180C and the equivalents) for about half an hour or until the cakes are brown and crisp. Serve with thick brown gravy and vegetables as a dinner (lunch) dish, or with scrambled egg as a supper dish.

Have to include this next recipe just because of its name. How the egg/milk mixture came to be called this we will never know. We could make something similar (b & b pudding for example) and use the name. Will raise a few eyebrows.
Yorkshire Old Wives' Sod:
5 large eggs
3 gills (a gill is quarter pint/5fl oz)
pepper and salt
2 thin oatcakes
Break the eggs into a basin and beat for 2 minutes. Add the milk and seasoning, mixing well. Have ready a baking pan, nicely greased with fresh butter. Pour in the beaten eggs and milk. Next break up the oatcakes into half inch pieces. Sprinkle these on top of the sod. Add a few nuts of butter and place in a moderate oven (suggest 180C, 360F, gas 4). Bake for 20 minutes. If the oatcakes are lightly toasted and buttered before breaking up they make the sod a tastier dish.

Just love reading through old cookbooks, mainly the dishes served in those days were plain and always frugal, and that is what I like about them. Here, again from the same book, is a pudding that would eat well today.
Chocolate Apple Stirabout:
4 oz (100g) flour
3 - 4 cooking apples, peeled cored and diced
1 - 2 tblsp granulated sugar
1 tblsp cocoa
pinch salt and milk to mix
2 oz (5og) margarine
Mix flour, cocoa and salt together, then rub in the margarine. Add sugar and apples. Mix with milk to the consistency of a thick batter. Pour into a greased baking dish and bake in a hot oven (min 200C, 400F, gas 6) for 20 - 30 minutes. Serve with golden syrup.

Towards the end of the book comes a chapter entitled 'For your Corner Cupboard'. Old ideas are often the cheapest and work the best. Here are a couple that are worth trying:
Medicinal Jam:
1 lb prunes
1 lb raisins
1 lb Demerara sugar
4 oz whole almonds
1 pint water
Chop the fruit finely with the almonds (this could nowadays be done in a food processor). Put into a bowl with the water and soak overnight. Next day put this mixture and liquid into a pan, add the sugar, bring to the boil, lower the heat to medium low and cook for half an hour. Pour into hot jars and seal immediately. This jam is delicious on brown bread, and a milk natural laxative for children.

Buttercup Ointment:
put half a pound of pure vaseline into a pan with as many buttercup flowers (without the stems) as can possibly be pressed into it. Allow to simmer (but not boil) for 45 minutes. While still hot, strain through muslin into small pots. It is ready for use when cold and very good for all skin troubles.

Another old recipe, this time from a different book, but seasonal so thought it worth including.
Gooseberry Chutney: makes about 4 lb
3 lb gooseberries, topped and tailed
8 oz onions, finely chopped
12 oz raisins or dates (or mixture) chopped
1 tblsp salt
1 tblsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spices (they may mean allspice)
1 pint white vinegar
8 oz sugar
Put the gooseberries and onions in a large heavy pan with just enough water to prevent them scorching as they cook. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until the fruit and onions are really soft and pulpy. Stir often to prevent them sticking to the pan.
Add the dried fruit, salt, spices and half the vinegar and cook on for a further 20 minutes until quite thick. Add the sugar and the remaining vinegar, heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar then simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. By then the mixture should be thick enough to leave a path when the woodens spoon is drawn across the bottom of the pan. Pot and seal in the usual way. Leave to mature for a month before eating.