Day three of my budget cooking plan (seven dinners for two people from £20 at Aldi!) was where my portion control went out of the window and I started to cheat… just a little… when I realised the only vegetable I had for this meal was onions. Two types of onions, but still, just onions… So, I’ll hold my hand up, I grabbed a small number of peas from my freezer. Like, maybe a dozen. Or maybe more. Don’t judge me…
Risotto isn’t one of those quick and easy, on the table in 20 minutes kind of dinners. You have to stand there and cook and stir and add stock for a looong time. But you know, when it’s dark and wet outside and you’re kind of fed up with everything, that’s okay. Sometimes you just want to stand there and stir something.
This roast chicken risotto recipe used to be my number one method of disposing of a dead body. There’s nothing like it to get rid of the evidence you had a chicken for your dinner than using it up in this delicious, simple risotto. But now I’m cooking a chicken every week, it would get a bit samey. If you try this, though, you’ll see why it’s my number one chicken disposal plan.
- Knob of butter and a splash of olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 350g risotto rice
- 1 glass white wine
- 1.5 litres simmering stock (chicken would be best)
- Cup of frozen peas, defrosted
- Leftover chicken – half a chook max
- 50g grated parmesan
- Melt the butter and add the olive oil to a big pan. I use a giant saute pan to make my risotto.
- Cook the garlic and onion together until translucent.
- Stir in the rice until coated with the butter.
- Stir in the wine and cook until evaporated.
- Add a ladleful of stock and stir, stir, stir – ever so gently – until the stock is evaporated. Then, repeat the process until you have just one ladleful of stock left. This is boring and dull, but not all cooking is about flamenco dancing around the kitchen with sharp knives, slicing lemons and throwing them at a great distance into fiery cauldrons of magical stew.
- At this point, add your chicken and your peas. I haven’t specified how much chicken, because this is a recipe for leftovers and that would, frankly, be madness. Who wants leftovers from a leftover recipe?
- Cook for five minutes, then stir in the parmesan cheese and serve.
Serves four adults.
This week’s chicken was a relatively simple affair. I decided to invite dear old mum and dad over for lunch, so we could swing by St Francis, a local animal rescue centre, where they were putting on a fund raising event. We’d (well, they) just adopted a lovely new dog by the name of Ben, so we decided to take him back to see all his old chums. He had an absolute blast, being treated like a right celebrity.
Anyway, that’s beside the point – the point was, I decided to make the chicken recipe simple, because I was serving it as part of a traditional British Sunday lunch. Americans, this is what we also eat at Christmas – only a much more elaborate version. It’s also the nearest thing you get to a Thanksgiving style meal here – swap the turkey for the chicken, and you see what I mean.
So, the recipe was Nigella Lawson’s Schmalzy Chicken, which is from possibly my favourite book of hers, Feast. The recipe is simplicity itself, and I don’t think I’m going to get a cheaper chicken dish out of this entire year – mostly because I bought one of Tesco’s ‘3 for £10’ chickens. Well, two, in fact. And lamb steaks.
So, that’s the semi-abused chicken. And here’s the costing:
Tesco Chicken: £3.33 (to infinity)
Grand total: £3.33
Yep, that was all I bought. The recipe calls for salt and a chicken. I’m down with that.
The idea here is that you render down the chicken fat you find inside the carcass, and then rub it over the chicken and roast it, so that the chicken gets meltingly tender and soft, and all deliciously savoury. I had a cunning plan to use three times the amount of chicken fat you would normally get from a chicken, by saving the fat from the inside of next week’s chicken. But, I didn’t tell M and he threw it away. Foiled! The other third was generously donated by the fat I skimmed off the top of Jamie’s chicken broth.
Rendering the chicken fat is just a fancy way of saying you cook it until all you have left is a pool of ‘schmalz’ and a wizened little piece of chickeny stuff. You can eat this, or shove it up the chicken’s bum to flavour it. That’s what I did…
This is the chicken pre-schmalz, sitting in the roasting pan that M’s mum gave me. It makes the chicken really moist thanks to the lid, but it also had the side-effect of not letting the chicken brown so much all over.
At first glance, this doesn’t seem like so much of a triumph, but that’s because you can’t taste it. Moist and delicious! The taste wasn’t complex at all, but somehow more ‘chickeny’ than chicken normally is… Amazing! And, with a cheapy chook, too. I wouldn’t say this was a miracle, but it certainly was a revelation. Shame I couldn’t get the skin any crispier, though – should have left the lid off.
This was the meal we ate our chicken with – a good old roast. Peas, fancy carrots, roast potatoes, stuffing balls, pigs in blankets, and gravy. Delicious.
So, the scores.
My dear old mum gave it 9. She would – everything I do well reflects on her, of course. Any chicken cooked by a child of hers is sure to score no lower than a 9.
My dad gave it 8. Very tasty and moist, he reckoned.
M gave it 7. It’s a simple recipe, and a simple, clean taste, but there’s nothing spectacular about it.
I gave it 7.5. It’s easy to do, tastes good and is cheap – what more could you want? Shame I couldn’t brown it all over, cos with crispy skin this could have been really special.
There wasn’t much leftover chicken here, but what there was got made into the most unphotogenic curry you ever did see. Except you’ll never see it, hah.