Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Spring Chicken

One mother hen sat on one little egg
Keeping it warm in its little egg nest;
Then one day she heard a shout
And a little voice said as a chick popped out...

I'm a spring chicken, I'm yellow and small
My feathers are fluffy and they're keeping me warm
My legs are not long so I'll never be tall
But I'm a real spring chicken and I'm having a ball
Chi-cken I'm a chi-cken and I'm having a ball.

Roast dinner can be tricky when you're trying to lose weight. And this time of year can be tricky for cooking. Part of you wants cosy comfort food, and another part sees the crocuses and snowdrops pushing their way upwards and thinks, "Spring!"

I've never been a great fan of roast chicken. Chicken is such a mid-week meat, and I've had too many birds overcooked to the point of sawdust (apologies to my ex-mother-in-law). But I got a recipe from Country Living magazine a few years ago which is delicious and very Weightwatchers-friendly. It also combines the comfort of roast dinner with the freshness of spring flavours. And the sauce is a pale pretty green, which makes you think of Easter and sunny days.

A bonus is how great the leftovers are. You've got the makings of two lovely soups to see you through the week.

Pot-roast Chicken with Rocket and Watercress Sauce

You need:

1 roasting chicken
Baby carrots (3 - 4 per person)
An onion, cut in chunky quarters
Half a pint of chicken stock or a glass of white wine
2 cloves of garlic
A couple of tablespoons of half-fat creme fraiche
A good bunch of watercress and/or rocket (about half of a supermarket bag of watercress, spinach & rocket will do)
zest and juice of a lemon

Put the chicken into a good sized lidded pot, with a bit of room around it for the carrot and onion. Plonk the veg into the pot with the garlic and stock or wine. Season the chicken, put the lid on, and roast on a relatively low oven, relatively slowly (time depends on the weight of the chicken, obviously).

When the chicken is cooked, remove it to a warm place to rest, along with the carrots. Add the creme fraiche, lemon zest and the watercress & rocket to the pot juices, garlic and onion. Whiz with a stick blender - the sauce with be creamy and flecked with green. Add lemon juice to taste, and season. You may want to thicken slightly with a little cornflour, but I prefer it as it is. Serve over the pot-roasted chicken, which should be very moist and tender. I usually have this with leeks and Anya new potatoes.

Now, you will have a lot of sauce, and probably a fair bit left over. This is definitely a good thing, because it makes a great next-day soup. If necessary, add a bit more stock or creme fraiche for taste or quantity, but when I had this at the weekend I didn't need to. I just added some leftover chicken, heated it gently, and served (to myself). Yum.

With the rest of the leftover chicken and the carcass, plus a bit of veg and rice, I made another soup the following day. 1 chicken, 2 soups, 3 meals. Brucie bonus.

Chicken and creme fraiche soup. Nicer from a chipped bowl, obviously.

This is basically just my grandmother's recipe for a basic but beautiful chicken & rice soup. She often used orzo pasta instead of rice.