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Chicken in a Creamy-mustardy Sauce (95p)

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An important point about the A Girl Called Jack recipe book is that it’s not a gourmet book full of fancy creations. It’s a book about making nutritional food at minimal cost. Some of the recipes do have a touch of genius and are full of flavour, others are more ordinary, although I haven’t found anything that I didn’t like so far. The following lies somewhere in the middle …

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The ingredients I used today:

  • 250 ml chicken stock – can use less if that’s all you’ve got, but no less than 200 ml. (I wouldn’t use stock made from cubes because they ate high in salt, artificial flavourings and palm oil – palm oil production is a major cause of environmental destruction worldwide (although a minority of suppliers manage their crops ethically and sustainably), but unfortunately is in many products you wouldn’t think had it.
  • 1 white onion. (Could also use green beans, peas or any other odd veg lying around.)
  • 1 large carrot.
  • A generous pinch each of dried thyme and parsley.
  • Mustard. I think Dijon on it’s own works best, but use whatever mustard you have around.
  • Several dessert spoons of natural yoghurt.
  • 75 g cooked chicken meat per serving (or more if you are very hungry!).
  • All-purpose seasoning (my favourite is Schwartz ‘Season All’).

I obtained the stock by slow-cooking a chicken, then tipping the contents of the pot into a metal strainer resting on a bowl. When cooled a bit, I transferred the juices to a tall glass and after a few minutes poured off the layer of fat which separated out on top.

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Fine-chopped the onion and soft-fried it. Cooked the carrot (popped it on top of the chicken in the slow-cooker for 20 minutes, but could have just boiled it, of course) and chopped it up a bit. Everything then went into a saucepan and simmered for 20 minutes – the veg, herbs, stock and a couple of generous teaspoons of mustard.

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When it had cooled a little, stirred in yoghurt until it was looking creamy. Could use cream, but yoghurt keeps the calories down. The result was ladled over some broken-up bits of chicken in a bowl.

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With the above quantities there was enough for four servings. Tasted excellent. I actually used English and Dijon mustard in my first batch, but next time I’ll use just use Dijon. Nothing wrong with the English, I just think it goes better with sausages! A sprinkle of all-purpose seasoning on top goes well. With the usual cup of tea and assuming a slice of bread and butter, 95p (not absolutely sure as I played around with the ingredients – somewhere between 85p and £1)..

The cost I originally posted was £1.10 a meal based on three servings, but it proved to serve four. Wasn’t sure how to classify this in the ‘categories’ list, but decided to call it a soup, as that was what the final product reminded me of more than anything else – some home-made croutons (a slice of toast cut into little squares) can be added.

Avgolemono Soup (47p)

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2016-12-16-lemon-chicken-0-flagSecond attempt at this one, and with a more pleasing result.

The Greek name for this is Κοτόσουπα Αυγολέμονο (pronounced something like  “koto-zoopa avro-lemono”), literally translating as ‘chicken-soup egg-lemon’.

  • 250 ml chicken stock
  • 1 egg (but see note at bottom)
  • 25 g rice
  • Half a lemon (plus a thin slice for decoration)
  • Garlic clove
  • ½ an onion, red or white
  • 1 carrot
  • flat teaspoon of all-purpose seasoning*
  • 25 g cooked chicken meat
  • pinch of dried parsley

Made my own chicken stock. After cooking a chicken in the crock-pot (AKA slow cooker), poured off the juices, and after they had settled for a few minutes scooped off the fatty layer that separates out on top – the flavour is all in the lower watery part (typically about 250 ml depending on the size of the original chicken).

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Simmered this for an hour with a grated carrot, half a fine-chopped onion, a crushed garlic clove and some all-purpose seasoning thrown in, plus 250 ml water.

Strained this, discarding the veg, and simmered with 25 g rice for 15 minutes, then poured it into a cold bowl to cool down a bit.

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Meanwhile, whisked an egg with the juice of half a lemon – not to a foam, but with a good bit of air in it (I used a hand-blender) – then added this to the stock once it was cool enough. The trick is not to have the stock too hot, otherwise you end up getting scrambled egg. The end result should have a smooth consistency. Threw in 25 g of chicken meat and reheated it to steaming point in a pan before serving. With a thin slice of lemon and sprinkle of parsley it looks fab.

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And there it was! There are numerous variations of avgolemono on the web, some with stock, others chicken broth, others with lumps of chicken and various vegetables thrown in. Some have the sauce floating on top or whipped to a meringue-like consistency, most (like mine) have it blended in. On this occasion it was a little bit ‘eggy’, so would add less of the egg/lemon mix next time.

As the stock was free (the by-product of cooking a chicken) just needed to add up the cost of the other ingredients and electricity. Came to about 78p. As there was enough for two, with a slice of bread and cup of tea, 46p a serving.

* I currently use an equal mixture of Schwartz ‘Season-All’ and Polish ‘giros’ seasoning, but any ‘all purpose’ or ‘universal’ seasoning will do, or a quarter of a chicken stock cube – but not more than that as it will drown out the subtle flavouring of the dish.

Potato and onion soup (51p)

A while back I got hold of a copy of ‘A Girl Called Jack‘ for £4.47. It’s a recipe book with very low-cost meals and inspired me to do a bit of cooking. Initially posted my experiences on Facebook, but it’s getting tiresome hunting back in time there to relocate recipes, so here’s the blog – a personal notebook and reference point for anyone interested. Here goes, with recipe no. 1  …

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Inspiration: cookingonabootstrap.com

  • 500g tinned potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • sprinkle of cumin
  • chicken stock cube dissolved in a mug of boiling water
  • 150 ml plain yoghurt. (I used Greek yoghurt, which was 50p, compared to 75p for plain yoghurt. The latter would have been better though, the tangyness of the Greek yoghurt overpowers the flavours of the other ingredients.)

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After soft-frying the onion with the cumin and simmering the potatoes with the stock for 10 minutes, the idea is to blend everything.

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I don’t have a blender, so mine was more a broth, having mashed the potatoes and finely chopped the onion. My eyes are still stinging.

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Didn’t feel it needed the cumin. Maybe single cream or even milk would work. Very filling with a slice of bread, and the above quantities made enough for three such meals.

Estimated cost of each meal, including cup of tea, bread, butter and electricity used, 51p.