Sunday, April 09, 2006

Packed Lunches and Poached Chicken

I am poaching a chicken. Not boiling a fowl as the lovely boyfriend seems to suspect. There is no violent bubbling of scalding water or great hissings and billowings of steam. Rather the whole flat is slowly filling with the gentle aroma of coriander and parsley, celery and onion studded with clove as occasional great fat bubbles mar the surface and the bird slowly acquires a delicately scented flesh from the aromatics. After an hour or so I will have a moist chicken and a litre or so of well flavoured stock.

The chicken is a corn fed bird from France, decent eating as the French are serious about their poultry. Sadly, with the discovery of bird flu their sales have been badly hit, so it is possible at the moment to buy one of these chickens for £5. A bargain not to be sniffed at.

It is for packed lunches this week. Turns out my sweetheart became bored with the little on offer around his office and so stopped eating in the middle of the day. I asked occasionally what he'd had for lunch and was getting increasingly vague replies - including 'I forget' ! Hmmm. There is no joy in all the overprocessed, under flavoured gunge that is served up by sandwich bars - chains or independent. As an occasional stop gap it might just pass muster till the hunger pangs recede but as a daily ritual it is untenable. It's not as if it's even cheap. So he'd stopped eating lunch all together. Not good.

My solution is to make lunch for him and me to take with us most days, if not all. But I don't want to have to get out of bed half an hour earlier (or even 5 minutes earlier!) than I have to. So, if I poach a chicken on Sunday it only takes a few moments to put it into a tub with some crunchy sugar snap peas, baby plum tomatoes, and organic carrots from Total Organics because, after trying the carrots from all the different suppliers at Borough these are undoubtedly the carrotiest - sweet, crunchy and smelling great. This is good till Wednesday, then rather than have the meat dry out, the rest can be made into sandwiches and frozen. Thawed by lunchtime back to freshness. With a couple of biscuits and an apple from Kent orchards, this is a great lunch, especially at work. And cheaper than a nasty thing from Pret. Smells better too.

Poached Chicken

1 free range corn fed chicken
1 onion, unpeeled, chopped in half and studded with 2 cloves
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
bouquet garni - thyme, parsley, coriander, celery leaves, bay leaf
12 coriander seeds
12 black peppercorns

Wash chicken thoroughly and place into a large stock pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and skim off any scum or foam that rises to the surface. Simmer very gently, uncovered, for an hour. Allow to cool, remove the chicken from the liquid, cover and refrigerate till needed. Strain the stock and freeze for use another day.

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