I have been thinking about writing this blog for a while: as a single mum, I am aware of how difficult it can be to feed your family healthy meals on a tight budget. And let’s be honest, at the moment, everybody’s budget is feeling a bit tight.
The solution I have found is to a) to batch-cook (so that whatever dish you prepare will last you for several meals or that some of it can be frozen to be used at a later date) and b) to choose an ingredient I can use through most of the week, in several different dishes, by just adding a few extra ingredients and pantry staples.
When I’m feeling the financial pinch, my go-to ingredient is chicken; a large chicken will enable me to prepare meals for 2 or 3 days afterwards. Here is how I do it:
Day 1 – Roast chicken and vegetables.
This is the easiest way of preparing your chicken and it is a wonderful one pot dish, saving you some time on the washing-up!
I put some salt, pepper, garlic, dried thyme and a couple of bay leaves in the cavity of the chicken and I then rub the chicken skin with a little olive oil before sprinkling with a little more salt, plenty of black pepper and dried thyme.
Your chicken will need to cook for 45 minutes per kilo + an additional 20 minutes. So a two kilo chicken should cook for 1 hour and 50 minutes.
About 40 minutes before the end of cooking, add some carrots, parsnips and potatoes cut in big chunks to your roasting tin and stir them so they are thoroughly coated with the chicken fat. Put back in the oven.
When your chicken and vegetables are cooked, take out of the oven and cover with tin foil to allow the chicken to rest for 10-15 minutes.
Carve and serve.
Day 2 – Easy and speedy homemade pizza.
Before you can make the homemade pizza, there is a messy job to be getting on with: you need to remove all the chicken from the bones and shred it. It takes a little while, but it is worth it as you then have one of your ingredients ready to use for the rest of the week. Do not get rid of the carcass of the chicken: you will need it to make chicken stock.
To make your easy and speedy homemade pizza (serves 2), first deseed and finely slice 3 peppers (to bring colour to my pizza, I choose 1 red, 1 yellow and 1 green pepper), place them on a roasting tin and drizzle a little olive oil over them as well as a sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Cook them in a 200C oven for approximately 10 minutes.
Once the peppers are ready, turn your oven down to 170C.
Then, take 2 garlic and coriander tortilla wraps and spread 1tsp of garlic puree and 1tbsp of tomato puree on each of them. Add one or two handfuls of the shredded chicken and the roasted peppers. Top with grated mature cheddar (a small handful is enough if you choose mature cheddar as you get more flavour for less cheese.)
Cook in the oven until the cheese has melted, approximately 8-9 minutes. Serve with a side of green salad.
Day 3 – Chicken and sweetcorn wraps
This is an ideal meal if you are pressed for time. You can use shop-bought mayonnaise if you wish but it takes no time at all to make your own. Let me share with you my mum’s recipe for homemade mayonnaise:
In a small bowl, put 2 egg yolks, 1tsp Dijon mustard, 1tsp vinegar (I use organic apple cider vinegar) and a pinch of salt and pepper. With a hand whisk or electric whisk, start whisking the ingredients together whilst adding little by little approximately 80-100ml olive oil (depending on how much mayonnaise you want to make) until your mayonnaise is thickened and smooth. Taste it and add seasoning if needed. If your mayonnaise tastes a little bland, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
To make a couple of wraps, mix 150g shredded chicken and 250g sweetcorn with 2tbsp of mayonnaise. Spread on your tortilla wraps and fold them. Serve with a green salad on the side.
Day 4 – Thai chicken noodle soup
First, make your chicken stock. Place the chicken carcass in a large saucepan along with 3 carrots and 2 celery sticks cut in big chunks and one onion, quartered. Add 6 whole black peppercorns and 2 bay leaves. Do not add salt if you put salt in the cavity of your chicken on day 1 for your roast chicken. Pour 2 litres of freshly boiled water in the pan, place on a high heat and bring back to the boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer gently for a couple of hours. Finally, drain the stock through a sieve and into a large bowl, leaving behind the carcass, vegetables and seasonning which you can now discard.
You can prepare your stock in advance and place it in the fridge overnight. This way, the fat will harden at the top of the stock and it will be easier to skim it away.
Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
2tbsp olive oil
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 red chilli pepper, finely chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
2tbsp fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1tsp mirin (sweet rice wine)
1.25 litre chicken stock
150g shredded cooked chicken
150g dried noodles
250g coconut milk
250g Chinese leaves
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and gently fry the spring onions and red chilli for 3 minutes. Add the grated ginger and turmeric and cook for a further minute, until fragrant.
Add the fish sauce, lime juice, mirin and chicken stock to the saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Add the coconut milk, shredded chicken and noodles. Bring back to a gentle simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add Chinese leaves and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes until they have wilted.
Serve with a garlic and coriander Naan bread and a sprinkle of finely chopped coriander if you wish.
Sandra’s note: If you cannot find Chinese leaves, do not worry: cabbage or spinach would work perfectly well instead.
Otherwise, buy some spring greens; they are in season and as such, easy to find and very cheap at the moment. I chose a mix of tender-heart cabbage and cavolo nero, which is a kind of kale, for my recipe as seen in the picture.
I hope you will find this blog useful and that I have given you plenty of ideas on how to use your leftover chicken! J
ps: If you wanted to know what recipe developing looks likes, have a look at the photo below… It looks messy! J