Sunday, November 16, 2008

Frugal Fare Challenge Day 1: Saturday

Ready, set, and go...the challenge begins.

Breakfast: storecupboard muesli and some blackberries from fridge leftovers.

Lunch: Roast Chicken
with baby courgettes, baby carrots and beetroot.

I'm happy to say that the veg were all participants from the fridge, eager to get involved and, most importantly, to get used. The meal proved a very colourful plateful, alongside my highly useful, very simple Roast Chicken. I'm not what you'd call a fancy, schmancy cook - I'm still just learning. And a chicken is, to me, one of the ultimate fares which can stretch 62 different ways. Forget credit cards, chickens are my flexible friends!

1 chicken - mine wasn't fancy, and I'm ashamed to say it wasn't organic either, so £2.75 it was.
Glug of olive oil, 2 cloves garlic chopped, a dollop of butter, salt and pepper

Lay the chicken breast up in a high-sided roasting tray, cut away the excess skin at its neck and bottom, pop a lemon up its backsie, smear some butter all over its chest, and down into the joints of the legs/wings. Scatter the chopped garlic over, glug the olive oil across, and whack in the oven (I'm afraid to say I use an Aga, so this just means 'top oven') for 20 minutes at high heat, till the fat is bubbling and getting talkative, and the skin is lightly golden. Baste the breast and legs with the hot fat, so that the chicken glistens tastily.

Then pop some foil across the top for protection, and put back in the oven for an hour at a slightly lower heat. Baste from time to time to keep the lovely juices soaking into the chicken. The chicken is done when you pull the leg away from the body and it is no longer pink, or if you stick a knife into the leg joint and the juices run clear.

Mademoiselle la Poule, in all her glistening glory. She was a beaut. Shame about the photographer. Hopefully I will start to improve...

(My) Gravy: remove the chicken from the roasting pan and onto a carving tray, and pop the tray back onto a heat ring. Scrape all the bits into the tray, and start to heat the fat until it bubbles. Add a teaspoon of flour so that the gravy thickens, and stir vigorously to mix in. Add a teaspoon of gravy granules for colouring, and season with some salt and pepper. Then slowly add in some of the vegetable juices to bulk up the gravy. I never end up with smooth gravy, but I loathe it gloopy, so you will have to sieve out the bits, but will have a lovely juicy sauce to top your meat and veg with.

I then quickly got to work on pulling the meat off the chicken, and sending it off to the fridge packed up in foil, ready and waiting for me to conjure up some further delight with it. It would not have to wait long...
The bones were made into a lovely, scrumptious chicken stock - all the bones and the carcass went into a large saucepan, along with a whole carrot, a couple of celery sticks, the top half of a leek, a peeled, halved onion, a peeled garlic clove, 8 peppercorns, a bay leaf and some parsley stalks, with a couple of litres of water to fill and several generous pinches of salt. About an hour of bubbling later, and I had my stock! It was dutifully drained of its by now rather sorry looking occupants (oh such use and abuse!), resulting in a tasty, glisteningly perfect, and highly useful stock. The champion of frugality methinks.

Dinner: Chicken Pilaff

There is something rather retro and 70s sounding about a pilaff. Am I the only one who thinks this? But it is such a simple storecupboard dish, that can be rustled up with a variety of different ingredients, and is perfect for me to hit the 'waste not, want not' objective. So it seems a great shame for me (or anyone) to sneer, just because it sounds old fashioned.

Leftovers: a generous handful of cold chicken roughly chopped - several ladles of chicken stock
The Fruit&Veg bowl/The Fridge: a clove garlic (chopped), an onion (diced), 2 sticks celery (diced), 1 small green pepper (diced), a large handful of baby tomatoes (halved), generous handful of chopped parsley
The Storecupboard: some fastcook long grain rice of a brand I shan't mention

In a shallow saucepan, gently sweat the garlic, onion, celery and pepper in a small amount of butter and oil. Once golden, add the tomatoes (add them too early and they will just disappear and go terribly mushy), and then add a cupful of the rice. Stir to mix and to coat the rice grains in some of the fat, and then add a two or three ladlefuls of the boiling stock. Rather like a risotto, only the pilaff will not become a creamy mass, but will retain its ricey origins. Now leave to simmer for as long as your rice packet tells you (mine was 10 minutes). Do not stir and fuss around, as this breaks up the rice grains and results in a big old mess. Should you notice that the liquid is becoming rather sparse, simply add another ladleful. The rice should, after the recommended period of time, have absorbed up the liquid, and be cooked whilst still retaining bite. Stir in your chicken and your parsley and heat the chicken for a few minutes, until hot through. Scatter with parsley and serve as is.

My picture does not nearly do the tastiness justice, but you will fast become used to this. I repeat: I am not a photographer, I am not a photographer. Maybe I'd do better if I just drew the food!

The Pilaff in all its retro glory - complete with apparently equally retro plate. What a perfect couple.

Day 1 - £2.75 actually spent, plus a smidgen of 'cheat items'. At the end of the week I will tot up what I actually spent where, to give you an accurate idea.

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