Is it sad that a 30 year old woman has never roasted a chicken before? In my defence, it’s just never come up and now that I live on my own, there didn’t seem much point roasting a whole chicken for one person. However, earlier this week I was struck with twin urges: to roast a chicken and to write a blog post.

But of course, in order to roast a chicken I need ideas for what to do with the leftovers! Oh, and instructions on how to roast it in the first place! So, to my trusty cooking source I turned, and while I was expecting a “Sorry, I’m frantic at work, Google it” email, what I got instead was a chicken manifesto…

OK then.

 Roasting a chook is easy.  Buy a ready-to-bake chicken (so you don’t have to clean it… ick!), and I do one of 3 things to stuff it:

1.       Stick a whole lemon and some fresh thyme up it’s bum (excuse the lovely description) – this is easy and gives the whole chook a nice lemon and herb flavour;
2.       Mix up a stuffing mix of breadcrumbs, finely diced onion, herbs of your choice (thyme is always nice with chicken, or parsley), salt, pepper and anything else you have on hand (e.g. finely diced capsicum, crushed garlic, bacon, olives, feta, etc etc) and a little oil or a beaten egg to bind it together; or
3.       Use either cooked rice or couscous with assorted flavourings and seasonings.  A favourite is couscous, chickpeas, cumin, ground coriander, paprika, chopped dates (or raisins), finely diced onion and capsicum (a little bit Middle Eastern). This will go well if you sprinkle the skin with paprika – see below.

Place chicken breast-up in a roasting pan – I usually give the pan a spray with cooking oil first.  Then you have to prepare the skin.   You can do this in a couple of ways too:
1.       Make crispy paprika skin – pat the chook with paper towel to dry and then sprinkle liberally with paprika.  This is how Mum always made it and is very tasty
2.       Carefully pull the skin away from the breast – make a small cut at the neck if you need to – and gently slide some herbs in between the skin and the meat.  Also can add a squeeze of lemon juice and some pepper.  Sage and Thyme (again!) are good for this purpose.  Rub a little olive oil on the skin.  The flavours go more into the meat this way than the next;
3.       Just squeeze some lemon juice over the skin, rub it in a bit and top with some herbs.

Bake in a 200 degree oven for about 40min per kg (these are all from memory though – keep an eye on it).  And that’s it!

I usually add chunks of pumpkin and kumara into the roasting pan and roast them with the chook.  They then get some of the flavour of the seasonings you’ve used.  Let’s face it – what’s the use of having a roast chook if you don’t have roasted veg too?! 

You can add potato to the pan too, but I usually pre-boil and ‘rough up’ (drain the water and let the spuds sit on the hotplate a little longer, shaking the pan to rough up the surface of the spuds) the potato before tossing with garlic, rosemary, olive oil and salt and roasting separately.

I’d serve these with some sort of greens – Matt likes steamed broccolini, or steamed zucchini, beans or peas.

Deciding that roasting a chicken for one, even with plenty of ideas for leftovers, is really a bit tedious, I enlisted Toni (yes, Toni of baked apple fame!) to come over for a chicken feast.

Since I don’t really like stuffing, I went with the basic lemon and thyme placed in the cavity (see, Lyndal, that’s how you say it politely!), and then basted with lemon, thyme and an early harvest olive oil (ie. strong flavoured). Is it wrong that I found it oddly satisfying to massage the flavours in to the chicken? Yes? Right.

Ah, Fatty McFat-Chook, too big for it’s dish (I will no doubt be having the same issue with my jeans tomorrow)

After a week of looking exceptionally closely at the pages of a new recipe book for work, I had become inspired and as well as the usual potato, kumara and pumpkin, I had intended to do some braised cabbage and a fennel salad (courtesy Janelle Bloom, book out November *shameless plug*). However, while making my way around the fruit and vege shop I spotted a bargain in the form of a giant bunch of broccolini, which was so cheap I couldn’t pass it up, so I quickly altered the menu. (Unfortunately, my grocery list didn’t have the items organized by recipe so I ended up buying several things that were meant to go in the braised cabbage and which I now have no use for so look out for recipes containing apple cider vinegar, because I have no idea what I’ll be doing with it otherwise!)

With the chicken and the roast vege sorted, I prepped the salad which turns out to be both incredibly easy and incredibly tasty – always chancy when using an ingredient you’ve never even seen or heard of outside of MasterChef (luckily it was front and centre at the fruit shop, with a massive sign, because I wouldn’t have known otherwise).

Apple and Fennel salad
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 Pink Lady apples, thinly sliced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ c pumpkin seeds, toasted
¼ muscatels or raisins
1 c mint leaves, roughly chopped
¼ c Greek-style yoghurt

I used a mandolin to slice everything, which was easy and fun and only a slight threat to my fingertips. Toss all the ingredients together, and then add the yoghurt and toss again to coat. I made half the amount above, which supposedly serves 4, and I think I’ll be eating it for the rest of the week. Good thing it was nice!

I hadn’t planned any kind of pre-dinner nibbles, beyond a bag of chips that could be cracked out if necessary. But I had a bit of time before Toni was due to arrive, so I decided to whip up…something. A quick flick through Jo Seagar’s It’s Easier Than You Think turned up a quick cheese bread that looked like the perfect starter. Again, I only made half the recipe since there were only two of us.

Easy Parmesan Bread
5 c high-grade flour
1.5 c grated Parmesan
1 t salt
1t dried mixed herbs
1 T dried yeast
½ t sugar
2.5 c warm water
Extra grated Parmesan to sprinkle

Grease a 20 x 30 cm sponge-roll tin with baking spray. Place all ingredients in a cake mixer or processor and mix until combined and a soft sticky dough forms. Transfer to the tin, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan and some sea salt and leave in a warm place until risen to twice it’s size (about 30 mins). Bake for 15-18 mins at 200ºC until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Served as is with butter it was yum. Toasted the next day with butter and vegemite it was also pretty damn good. Next time I’d add more herbs, and some black pepper to the dough too.

This was the next day toasted version – we scoffed the pre-dinner plate before I thought to take a photo

After 2 hours the chicken was ready to take out of the oven and rest (which we found out by looking up my trusty Edmonds cookbook – Lyn’s instructions were sadly incomplete for the novice chicken cookers amongst us (ie. Toni and I!)

While it was resting, I toasted some sliced almonds and pine nuts in garlic olive oil in a frypan, then added the broccolini.

After again consulting the Edmonds cookbook, which was luckily written for idiots, I discovered a delightful diagram describing how to carve a chicken – otherwise we were going to go with the hacking approach.

I’m sure my Dad never looks this intense while carving

Chicken successfully carved (after I discovered that chicken does in fact have a grain, and I was in fact cutting against it instead of with it), dinner was served. And aside from some undercooked potatoes, I would call it a definite success.

But of course, no roast dinner is complete without dessert. If we were at my Nana’s house, this would be an apple pie with icecream and sweetened whipped cream. Then again, we would also have had roast AND mashed potatoes with the chicken, so perhaps not.

But, taking inspiration from Nana, I made individual apple crumbles, adapting a recipe from Janelle Bloom (which I think needs a little tweaking still – although I have enough crumble mixture to last me for quite some time before needing to make more!):

Crumble topping
¾ c self-raising flour
¼ c almond meal (or plain flour if you don’t have almond meal)
¾ c brown sugar
150g butter, softened
¾ c rolled oats

Put everything except the oats into a food processor and pulse until it comes together. I forgot to soften the butter, so just chopped it small and it was fine. Transfer to a bowl, add the oats and use your finger to bring the crumble together in coarse chunks. In individual ramekins or a large pie dish, half fill with cooked apples, or any other fruit combo you like, and top with a generous layer of crumble.
Bake for 20 mins at 180 ºC, until the topping is crisp and golden. Top with icecream and/or cream.

I have a jar of the leftover crumble topping in the fridge, where it should keep for quite a while (in theory).

And now what to do with ¾ of a roast chicken – because two girls don’t make much of a dent in a 2kg chicken.

Lyn’s suggestions are:

You have to put chicken into something to freeze it, as it tends to be quite a dry meat and freezing makes this worse.  That being said, you could try:

Put it into a white sauce (equal parts marg and flour (maybe 1Tbsp), microwave until it starts crackling then add about a cup of milk and whisk well.  Microwave in 1 min intervals, whisking every minute, until the sauce thickens.  I like to add either seed mustard or parmesan cheese and cracked pepper as well) with some capsicum, onion, zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, bacon, feta etc etc (whatever you have, really).  Now you have a bit of an all-purpose sauce you can use in pie, filo pastry, crepes or just wrapped up in mountain bread.  Freeze it up and you’re set.

Make chicken frittata – eggs, milk and whatever veg you have (grated veg eg carrot or zucchini goes well in this) and diced cooked chicken.  Bake in a tray and then slice into squares and freeze.  Good easy lunch or dinner with salad and a piece of toast.

Turning it into enchilada meat – make a sauce out of crushed tomatoes, equal parts cumin and chilli powder (maybe half a tsp each), sautéed onion wedges and capsicum. Also can add red kidney or Mexi beans. Cook until thick.  I would add coriander too, but I know you don’t like this.  Add chicken and freeze in small portions.  Then you just have to defrost, add corn tortillas and cheese and bake and serve with salad.

Do any of these tickle your fancy?

Enchiladas and creamy chicken are followed to a tee, but instead of frittata (which I don’t really like) I make chicken and corn savoury quiche, based on a super easy zucchini slice that I make fairly regularly.

Chicken and Corn Quiche
400g can corn kernels, drained and rinsed
1 small red capsicum, finely diced
100g tasty cheese, grated
1c self raising flour
2t garlic oil
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1c cooked chicken, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together, but don’t overmix. Pour into a greased 6c Texas muffin pan (or a 20cm springform pan if you want a single quiche). Bake at 170 ºC  for 20 mins for muffins or 30-35 mins for a single quiche.

Savoury muffin, quiche, frittata, call it what you want, it’s all good to me

You can eat these cold or reheat in the oven or microwave. You could also freeze the uncooked mixture in single serve ziplock bags and cook to order.

As well as 6 quiches, 4 serves of enchiladas and 3 serves of creamy chicken, I got to have chicken sandwiches for four days – which is really why I wanted to roast it in the first place, the rest was just a bonus.

Happy roasting everyone


P.S. My mother was quite shocked that I’d never roasted a chicken. ‘Course, when she was my age, she had 3 kids and had been married for 10 years…