Summer holidays are over; children and teachers have returned to school. My stockpot is ready. Many of us will have begun a head cold by the Equinox on September 21st. While we might like to blame the disappointing Irish summer, the truth is that whether the summer is good, bad or indifferent, viruses that cause the common cold outsmart us all every September.
So now’s the time to reach for your stockpot, a good free-range, preferably organic chicken and lay in your supplies for when the sniffles arrive in your house, as they inevitably will. You’ll end up with a lot of chicken meat which you can freeze in 100g/200g parcels for school lunches, and with chicken stock which may be frozen in small, medium or large quantities. This takes a few hours to do so prepare it ahead, for when you’ve a miserable child draped over your shoulder.
Simmered Chicken and its Stock
- 1 free range chicken
- 1 white onion
- 1 stick celery
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 sprigs parsley
- 6 black peppercorns
- 6 slices fresh ginger root ( optional…this gives a lovely oriental tang)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Peel and slice the onion, carrot,
- Place chicken in a deep stew pot. Add all other ingredients and cover with cold water.
- Bring slowly to the boil and then simmer gently for about 1 1/2 hours
- You will know that it’s fully cooked when a knife inserted between body and thigh shows no pinkness
- When cool, remove from the heat and allow chicken to cool in its own stock. I always leave it outdoors, in view of the kitchen window, in case of any four legged prowlers.
- When cool, remove chicken from the stock and place on a large plate.
- Pour stock through a sieve into a large bowl and refrigerate. The fat on the top will solidify and can be removed to leave a beautiful, clear stock.
1. Freeze in clean 1 Pint, 1 Litre and 2 Litre clean plastic milk containers. Leave 2 inches of air at the top as liquids expand when frozen. The container may burst if overfilled. (the beauty of this is that if you want to make a risotto at short notice, fill the kitchen sink with hot water, throw in the carton full of stock with its lid on. When the outer layer has thawed, cut away the plastic container with a kitchen scissors, decant the stock into a saucepan and bring rapidly to the boil)
2. Bring to the boil and boil fast until reduced in volume. Then freeze. This gives a more concentrated chicken stock.
3. Keep some out and use to make Chicken and Leek Pie, Chinese Chicken Broth, Chicken Fricassée, Chicken and Chorizo Pasta Bake, Risotto Milanese…to name but a few.
4. If you have a child who is brewing a fever or feeling “off their food” or if you have a elderly person or a convalescent to feed, they will manage a bowl of clear chicken broth with a few tiny pasta shapes, and, maybe, a grating of fresh parmesan. Little stars, known as stelline ( Barilla) always went down a treat with our kids who all love pasta in brodo to this day. They may be found along with other tiny pasta shapes in Little Italy, Smithfield.
Remove all chicken meat from the carcass and refrigerate
- Chicken Bang-Bang, Chicken with Spring Onion and Ginger sauce…whatever you like.
- Freeze in foil wrapped parcels for adding to boxed lunches, wraps, sandwiches, salads tortillas etc.
- Chicken is a lean protein. To have ready cooked chicken meat in the fridge or freezer is a great help in managing weight control.
- To cook a whole chicken and use every bit of it is actually ‘Nose to Tail’ eating in your own home. The chicken you eat will not have been grown for the chicken breast market. Thigh meat is actually much tastier.
When little children begin a head cold, their nasal passages become congested and they can’t breathe. This much is quite obvious. The collateral damage is that they cannot close their mouths to chew their food without feeling that they are suffocating. As we get older we understand this, and that a cold will usually take several days to get over. However, little children panic…they need their nutrition (‘feed a cold, starve a fever’), they need hydration, and they want the runny nose, sore throat etc to just GO AWAY. All of the over-the-counter medications provide no more than symptomatic relief. The viruses which cause the common cold mutate very quickly and efficiently, so that each new head cold is caused by an unrecognized virus…same basic structure, different outer appearance once it meets our body’s defences (wolf in sheep’s clothing). They get into the bloodstream, multiply rapidly and engage our immune systems in a battle lasting several days. The body drives up its temperature to try to kill the viruses, and it disposes of dead white cells (our heroes…they died in battle) by flushing them out of the nose and throat.
By simmering a chicken and using its stock you will make one bird last for several meals. The lack of waste will enable you to spend more on a free-range organic chicken which will taste wonderful. You’ll be pleased with the ethics, the home economy and the fact that you’ve given the children something really GOOD to eat.