5 delicious chicken dinners for £25
The enjoyable excesses of December leave us all with the same inevitable conclusion in January: time to save some money... and if we can be healthier doing it all the better.
So I set myself the challenge: five magnificent meals over five nights, from one shop. I chose one protein (a nice big chicken) and got thinking. I wanted to happily feed two or more hungry adults each night, maybe even have friends over one night. I wanted to include some healthy vegetables and provide enough culinary variety to stop everyone being sick of said chicken.
I came up with a rough plan:
1. A tasty chicken & vegetable bake
2. Make a pie with the leftovers
3. A quick chicken & avocado open sandwich
4. A lighter Thai dish
I started on a Sunday because that’s the day I have most time to cook and shop. I went to the store and came back happy with my haul: all the ingredients I needed for under 25 quid. All I’d need is a few store cupboard additions of some rice, herbs and spices.
- 1 large free range chicken
- 1 bulb of garlic
- 1 small bunch of fresh thyme
- 1 small bunch of fresh mint
- 75g radishes
- 2 chillies
- 2 limes
- 1kg red onions
- 1kg regular onions
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 kg carrots
- 1 kg parsnips
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
- 1 bunch spring onions
- 2 avocados
- 1 bunch celery
- 1 pack baby gem lettuce
- 2 cans borlotti beans
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 loaf bread
- Pre-rolled shortcrust pastry (or make fresh from flour and butter)
On the Sunday evening I quickly jointed the chicken (watch our how-to video, it’s easier than you think). I removed the legs and things from the chicken, then took the wings off and the breasts separately. I put the two breasts wrapped in cling film in my fridge and I put the carcass and the wings in the oven to roast on 180 Deg C for around 20-30 minutes. This develops the flavour for making a really good chicken stock with a nice rich brown colour.
Dinner 1: Chicken, bean & butternut squash bake
I set about browning the legs and thighs in a nice deep wide oven proof sauté pan. I then followed my recipe. Since it was for 4, I halved the remaining ingredients to work for 2 people. I served one thigh per person (it was a big chicken) covered with a big ladle of the beans and broth and a hunk of bread on the side for the all-important juice mopping. I pulled the meat from the leftover legs in the bake, diced it and added it with the beans and broth to a nice big pie dish and chilled it ready for another dinner.
Meanwhile I added the browned chicken bones and some diced celery, onion and carrot to a big pot, covered with water and simmered away for an hour or so for some nice stock to have on hand for the rest of the week.
Dinner 2: Leftovers Pie
On the second day I whipped up a quick batch of shortcrust pastry but obviously you could buy a roll from the shop. To make mine a little tastier I grated a small piece of parmesan I had lurking in the fridge into the flour as I mixed for an extra kick.
I rolled out the pastry and laid it over yesterday’s leftover mix in the pie dish and baked it at 180 deg C for 45 minutes till bubbling and golden. It was more than enough for two with some peas from the freezer, in fact I had the last piece for lunch the following day.
Dinner 3: Chicken & avocado toast
On day 3 I was late home from work so I wanted something really speedy, so I made my ultimate egg, avocado & feta toast but left out the egg and the feta and did lovely slices of hot roasted chicken breast over the top instead. I only needed one breast between two - it was a big chicken. I heated a frying pan to medium hot, I rubbed one skin of the chicken breast with a little oil, salt and smoked paprika and cooked it skin side down till golden and crispy. I then flipped it over and added a half inch of water to the pan and an extra squeeze of my lime juice from the avocado mix, popped a lid on the pan and let it cook ‘til done through... around 4-5 minutes. Then I just allowed it to cool enough so that I could hand slice it. Made in minutes, gone even quicker. Super tasty.
Dinner 4: Thai Larb Gai
On day 4 I made my Thai Larb gai by hand mincing (finely chopping) the final chicken breast and serving it all with some steamed sticky rice. I felt happier knowing my wallet was thicker but my waistline wasn’t - January might not be so bad after all.
Dinner 5: Parsnip & butternut squash soup
On day 5 I fancied a big bowl of soup. I peeled, diced and sautéed the parsnips with the spring onions, 1 clove of crushed garlic, the other half of my butternut squash from Sunday, one of the remaining onions and a couple of sprigs of thyme. Once they started softening and got a bit scuffed around the edges, I deglazed the pan with a slug of the nice cold beer I was drinking. A small glass of white wine would do the trick just as well. I allowed that to all evaporate away. Then I covered the whole lot in my chicken stock and simmered it away ‘til everything was tender. I added the coconut milk and blitzed everything 'til smooth in a blender. I passed it through a sieve for a super smooth soup, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and served with my bread. Very satisfying - but I still had to have that second bowl... It was so good I've shared the recipe here.