Eating Chicken Frugally, Ethically and Deliciously

Eating Chicken Frugally, Ethically and Deliciously

I’m typing with slightly numbed fingers because when it comes to hot, crispy, salty chicken skin I will burn myself over waiting for it to cool every single time. So. Damn. Good!

But here’s the deal. Organic, pasture raised chicken is not cheap. It takes time, space and patience to raise a bird in it’s more natural habitat, with access to dust baths, tasty (!) insects and wild grown herbs – which is why I spend approximately 3.5 times the £ for an organic Riverford bird rather than one from my local supermarket. You’ve seen footage of intensively farmed birds right? Compare that with the care taken over these:

Worth every penny. Apart from the issues of welfare, ethics, and the environment there’re also the bonuses of not routinely feeding my family a cocktail of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides; of the comparatively vastly improved nutritional status; and of getting a far superior taste.

But, I really don’t have the budget to do this regularly so what to do?

My friends, I’ll tell you how you get to save the world and your health all in one go!

Alongside my regular organic delivery from Riverford I add three chicken carcasses for £2.65 which I whack straight in a hot oven with a good sprinkling of salt. As soon as the house is full of the tantalising aroma of roast chicken I know it’s time to start picking. This is why I have burnt fingers! I eat the salty crispy skin and any spare meaty bits; and throw the really fatty scraps down for EllaTheDog and PoppyTheCat.

The bones go in the slow cooker with salt, veggies, herbs, ACV and water for several hours to make the most delicious and nutritious bone broth. This week half of that will go in a stew for tonight and the rest will get saved for a vegetable curry tomorrow. Sometimes we’ll just drink the broth straight. Once I’ve strained off the broth the bones will be soft enough to squish down (together with the broth veg and any remaining scraps of meat) for Ella and Poppy’s supper tonight.

And the fat still in the pan? I chuck a load of veggies in, combine them in that delicious and healthy fat and pop the pan in the oven for a bit. Roast veggies for lunch are heaven! If you want to mix it up a little I’ve got a couple of other serving ideas on my other site

£2.65! Breakfast, lunch, dinner and pet food. I mean *really*! What are you waiting for…?!

I Can’t Believe You Don’t Eat Butter

 Flojo’s Easy Detox Tip #3

OK, this is a supadupa easy tip. Stop buying margarine, spreadable “butter” and any fancy schmancy low-fat, cholesterol-reducing, poly-whoodyamaflip tubs of yellow gunk! And, before you ask, even that one. And that one! Sorry, that ones gotta go too. I know it says pure/organic/healthy on the side. It’s still no good for you.

I don’t care what claims that crap makes on the side of its plastic tub; humans did perfectly well on good old butter from organically raised, pasture raised cattle for – like – ever without replacing it with bleached, purified, chemically interfered with, heated (and so damaged) artificial and additive-laden muck. The blame for the downturn in the general population’s collective health can largely be left at the door of the fake butter-peddling industry’s doors. And don’t be fooled by actual butter with “traditional values” packaging either. The nutritional content still doesn’t compare. A bit of research into seeing what commercial dairy herds are fed, how they are raised and how they are treated should put you right off.

Butter from organically raised dairy herds is the bomb! It has a great Omega 3 to 6 ratio, higher levels of vitamins D & K, more CLA (linked to weight loss) and tastes so much better than spreadable rubbish or inferior butter. Butter is a magnificent accompaniment to steaming plates of broccoli, asparagus or kale while carrots or cabbage sliced and gently fried in butter are far tastier than boiled. Not only does veg taste better with butter but the fat soluble vitamins,  such as A and D become more bio-available once served with the rich  golden stuff. In the meantime, I am more than happy to let my daughters eat it by the slice, happy in the knowledge that it’s a bonafide health food in its own right.

Further Reading:

Soil Association Definition of Organic Dairy Farming

Mark Sisson: Is All Butter Created Equal?

Winging It Without Waste

I am a (charmingly) chaotic cook. I think about main meals about an hour before I need to serve them up. Breakfast surprises even myself each morning; I get it on the table pretty much before my brain has woken up! Furthermore my shopping lists rarely contain much more than a reminder to pick up loo roll and I have not ever written a meal plan unless it was for Christmas Day. One year I didn’t even plan that but spent a lovely few hours pottering in the kitchen with my veggie box while the others watched Mary Poppins and we still feasted on a glorious roast with ALL the trimmings.

Recently I’ve been trawling through countless zero waste blogs and the most common advice where food is concerned seems to revolve around planning. Which got me thinking because we haven’t ever needed to use our council-provided food-waste box. So, for those of you that are perpetual wingers of the kitchen arena, here is how I do it!

Get a regular organic delivery. Organic food lovingly raised, harvested or produced tends to be on the expensive side. While it’s easy to chuck out a bag of discounted supermarket pre-prepped veggies gone to mush, I defy you to forget about that proud head of kale that takes up half your fridge. And because a) it tastes so much better and b) is seasonal – meaning you aren’t bored of using the same produce month-in-month-out it’s more exciting to use. In addition, I find our locally grown, non-air freighted, non Modified Atmosphere Packaged veggies stay fresh much longer anyway. Probably because they actually are fresh!

Don’t buy crap. Self explanatory really! If you buy crap you are unlikely to have much appetite or respect for it. So, unless you are a junk food binger (I’m not judging, I’ve been there) you probably won’t want to eat it all. And you probably don’t want to force feed it to anyone else either. And your compost bin won’t want it. So instead you hold it in your hand going what the hell did I buy this for? And, with no sensible answer other than it was on offer and I was PMSing and I just wanted to get out of the shop with the bright lights and other peoples screaming children and get home to have a cup of tea you chuck it out. Because it isn’t food. It’s crap.

Learn to improvise. I’d never have the ingredients I’d need if I followed recipes. But I do love cookery books for the inspiration. Most evenings I just grab some meat out of our tiny fridge (hopefully I remembered to defrost something the night before!), chop up whichever veg looks like it needs using up sooner rather than later and then decide which herbs, spices or sauces will complete the dish. Here are some examples:

Raise non-picky kids. I made a deal with myself when our girls were young. I would cook good, healthy, delicious meals and expect them to either eat them or go without. They love their food and it is rare that they don’t finish what’s on their plates.
Raise non-picky pets. Once a week Simon prepares a large bowl of raw meat, eggs (including the shells), yoghurt and vegetables for Ella-the-dog and Poppy-the-cat. This gets divided into five portions (for one meal a day) and then they get raw bones, chicken gizzards, the pickings from the stock bones and any pan-scrapings or leftovers to top up or fill in the gaps. Until recently we’ve also always had free-range rabbits that got the cores and outer leaves of leafy veg like cabbages and the ends of root veg  like carrot tops. These bits now either get given to the dog or added to the compost bin.

The compost bin is a last resort and takes on any veg peelings that the pets don’t want; copious coffee grounds; tea bags, egg shells, the grotty bits from the sink strainer that fits in the plughole, the meat bones, and all of the egg boxes, paper and cardboard (largely used to package our organic veg) that we’ve used. In return we get great garden compost for free!

And that, my friends, is how we roll. Is there anything I haven’t covered? What are your top tips for winging it without waste?

Piggy Stew! (Oh Pa-He-ggy Stew)*

 Give me a full fridge and I don’t know where to start. There’s too much choice and my brain goes into meltdown!  The evenings when I need to serve up a filling, nutritious and delicious meal to my family in an hour or so and all I’ve got are leftovers? That’s when the magic happens. My best meals are invariably the ones where I’m under pressure and tonight’s stew was no exception. I reckon you could adapt it quite easily – take a look in your fridge and see what you’ve got.

This evening I had leftover roast pork and cold sausages staring balefully at me from Tupperware boxes. And a drawer of odds and sods of veggies from last week’s organic box. And my cupboard was, uncharacteristicly sporting a couple of tins of tomatoes from a day when I must have been trying to forward plan. I forget what I was planning…

I fried chopped onions, garlic, carrot and courgette with fennel seeds, chilli seeds and thyme for about twenty minutes. Added the pork, chopped sausages and tinned chopped tomatoes. Bought it all to the boil, seasoned it, simmered it, went for a dog walk**, added some shredded Savoy cabbage and a splash of water, put the laundry on drier racks***, served it up, drizzled, ok,  poured olive oil on the top and settled down to hear the troll-like slurping going on round the table from my own piggies.

*Apologies for the poor pun on Buddy Holly’s 1957 hit 


***also optional

Related Posts:

Cheap n Cheerful Chocolate Chilli

A Fine Way with Leftovers

Wednesday Night Fridge Clearout

Take One Chicken!

 On Thursday mornings at 6.45 a.m. our organic delivery driver struggles up to our front door with boxes of enough fruit, veg, dairy, eggs and meat to keep us busy for a few days. And because Thursdays can be one of those meh days I always like to chuck a chicken in the oven that evening to devour, sticky and dripping with, er, dripping and served with either a salad or pile of seasonal vegetables. It’s a dish guaranteed to make us slow down, take stock (pun!) and re-fuel for the last working day of the week.

No one comes over on Thursdays so no one has to witness our rather primitive approach to eating roast chicken and veg – a minimal use of of cutlery but liberal use of fingers – accompanied by much slurping and crunching; and followed by surreptitious licking of plates. And then licking of fingers. And wrists. No one needs to see that.

I’m pretty basic in my approach to roasting chickens. After smearing with butter, salt and pepper (sometimes a haphazard shake of dried thyme over the top or a few plump garlic cloves chucked in the cavity) I stick it in an oven at 190c and leave it to do its thing for 20 mins per 500g plus another 20 mins. I baste it a couple of times when I remember but that’s it.

After it’s done it’s time I rest it for 10 mins then call Simon in to carve it while I get in the way, picking at juicy morsels and trying to peel off the best bits of crispy skin before anyone else gets a chance. I don’t make gravy. Instead we just pour all the chickeny, buttery juices over the meat. Life doesn’t get much better than that!

Whatever doesn’t get devoured on Thursdays then gets made into a salad for Friday’s packed lunches. And the bones go into a pot with ACV, salt and a bit of veg to simmer for as long as we can manage in order to make a splendiferous, nutritious broth. Meanwhile the little bag of giblets gets divided between the Ella the dog and Poppy the cat. Clearing up after Thursday dinner time is a faff but is well worth the effort.

Saturdays we each have a mug of delicious broth with our lunch while Ella and Poppy chow down on the vegetables and any last bits of meat picked off the broth bones. And I pat myself on the back for using every last bit of an organic, humanely reared chicken with the minimum of fuss and the maximum amount of taste, nutrition and love. Because you gotta acknowledge that kind of stuff to yourself right? Always taking pleasure in the details!

Laters my lovelies! X