Monday, 7 September 2009

Roast Chicken

In this final installment of Ekonomi Gastronomi we emulate yet another significant aspect of Economy Gastronomy, a television programme on BBC2. The motivation behind the programme is getting families to cut down on their food expenses, while improving the general quality of the food they have in the process. One way in which they help to curb expenditure is through the use of what they call bedrock and tumbledown recipes. Effectively, the bedrock will consist of a common preparation of a set of ingredients which can then be used in the tumbledown recipes. As an example, minced beef is cooked with various herbs and spices, and then used in bolognese, chilli con carne, and cottage pie.

For this post, by popular demand, and lacking any real ideas that make use of items that we have not introduced before, we shall roast a chicken. This also gives us the added benefit of covering another aspect of British food culture. Broadly speaking, the British favour convenience when it comes to preparing meals over the work week: I base this from the conversations my mother used to have with some of her friends. Sunday lunch however is traditionally associated with a roast; any meat can be used, although turkey is usually more commonly associated with Christmas, and red meats such as beef, lamb and pork seem to be more prevalent. The roast is often accompanied by a selection of roasted or boiled vegetables, roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. Most pubs do roast lunches on Sundays, so if you do not feel like fussing about so much to experience this, just head to your nearest pub.

Any excess meat from the chicken can be used in a variety of things, like pasta, pies, and so on, and the carcass and excess gravy can be boiled to make chicken stock. Unfortunately, on the day the chicken was roasted, there were four of us, and we were hungry, so the only part of the chicken which would be used for tumbledown recipes would be the stock.

The main idea which makes up the recipe came from memories of my roommate doing something similar last year, and advice given to me by a colleague of whom my other colleagues and I are fond of. The lemons are to be inserted into the cavity of the chicken to keep it moist during the roasting process. The butter serves a similar function: it is to coat the chicken so that no moisture escapes during roasting.

The lemons taste the same as regular ones, the only difference being the odd sizes they sometimes come in. The butter appears to be exactly the same ingredient make-up as regular butter.

At £1.99/kg, the Basics Whole Chicken is probably the cheapest fresh meat available in Sainsbury's, excluding minced items. If you can spare the time while at university (and believe me, you will have spare time in your first and second years), and don't exactly feel like experiencing more of what the UK has to offer, you might want to buy a chicken and carve it to save on expenses. Meat quality is not discernible from regular chicken.

On to the preparation. Slice lemons in half and cut a few cloves of garlic into thin slices.

Insert lemon halves into body cavity of chicken.

Make slits in random places of the chicken and insert garlic slices. Coat the top of the chicken as well as underneath its skin with butter. You might have to use a knife to separate the skin from the meat.

Once that is done, dust with pepper and thyme.

Roast according to instructions given in the chicken packaging. If you want to, you could coat the chicken with bacon, to further protect from moisture escape, as my flatmates have done here.

The end result is a success. It is worth noting that while my flatmates have generally been willing to sample my previous recipes posted here, this was the first time I actually cooked for them using only Basics items. The fact that they were willing to eat this at all is probably quite encouraging for the few individuals managing the ongoing campaign showcasing Sainsbury's Basics products.

Post-dinner, the gravy and carcass was placed in a pot, along with a few more cloves of garlic, and filled with enough boiling water to cover it all. It was left simmering for 3-4 hours before being brought to a boil, covering, turning off the heat, and leaving it alone. This process drives out the air from the pot and allows the stock to be kept without need for refridgeration.

Yes, the contents were transferred to a more suitable container.

Some of the prepared stock was used the following day to make chicken rice, something familiar to my fellow countrymen, but foreign to the other nationalities reading this. Unfortunately, in our excitement to cook and eat something which reminds us of the home we miss so sorely, we ended up not taking photos of it. Rest assured however, that the chicken rice was excellent. Those of you who needed the photos to identify what exactly chicken rice is can resort to Wikipedia.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Butter£0.75250g+£0.19Richer tasting butter?
Lemons£0.684+£0.40More suitable sizes for making lemonade, etc.
Roast Chicken£1.99 /kg2-3kg+£0.80 /kgNot much

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