Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Tale of Two Chicken Dinners

Sometimes it is necessary to have dinner on the table sooner rather than later. Sometimes if the day has been a busy one that seems like an inordinate challenge. Wanting to eat NOW sometimes gets in the way of good food, from scratch looks way too slow/difficult/ridiculous when you can stick something in the microwave for however long. No chopping for that. Not much pleasure either. Definitely no certainty about what exactly it was you just ate.

Not really talking horsemeat here - though the extent to which no one has been - or apparently ever will be - accountable for that is really depressing. I'm talking about the 5,000 plus additives that go into processed food. The front of the package for a Tesco Classic Chicken dinner offers Succulent chicken in a savoury gravy with roast potatoes, baby carrots, peas and a pork stuffing ball - and really, who wouldn't be tempted?

Flip the box over though and I had to wonder what precisely is being stabilised with disodium diphosphate? Indeed what is - precisely or even vaguely - disodium diphosphate? The list in full reads  Cooked Chicken Breast (25%),Roast Potatoes (24%) ,Water ,Carrot ,Peas ,Pork Stuffing Ball ,Cornflour ,Chicken Stock ,Butter ,Yeast Extract ,Wheat Flour ,Sugar ,Salt ,Caramelised Sugar ,Sage ,Thyme ,White Pepper ,Cooked Chicken Breast contains: Chicken Breast ,Corn Starch ,Roast Potatoes contains: Potato ,Sunflower Oil ,Dextrose ,Pork Stuffing Ball contains: Pork ,Wheat Flour ,Onion ,Pork Fat ,Vegetable Oil ,Potato Starch ,Herbs ,Salt ,Pork Bouillon ,Pork Rind ,Onion Powder ,White Pepper ,Black Pepper ,Stabiliser (Disodium Diphosphate) ,Yeast ,Chicken Stock contains: Water ,Natural (Flavouring) ,Chicken Fat ,Salt ,Cornflour ,Sugar ,Pork Bouillon contains: Salt ,Milk Sugar ,Maltodextrin ,Vegetable Oil ,Yeast Extract ,Sugar ,Onion Powder ,Celery Extract ,Sage Extract ,Pepper Extract ,Turmeric Extract - for one chicken dinner? Cheap though.

My favourite bit though is the cooking instructions - For best results cook from frozen. Remove outer packaging and pierce film lid several times. Remove stuffing ball and potatoes. Then it's 12 minutes in the microwave - returning halfway through to replace the previously removed stuffing ball and potatoes or 50 minutes in the oven. So even with a frozen ready meal you're looking at 50 minutes for conventional cooking. Imagine what the peas are like...

So, the other night I wanted fast and fabulous and definitely not much faff. I had some nice little pieces of chicken - thighs and drumsticks, bone in, skin on - thinking a salad would be good. But this spring is not yet sprung and it was bloody freezing out. Didn't have enough veg in to make a proper roast dinner but I did have some main crop potatoes and plenty of garlic, as always. I warmed a little olive oil in a roasting pan and crisped the chicken skin over a high heat till it was lovely and golden then added the peeled diced potatoes and some whole crushed cloves of garlic and put the pan into the oven at about 200C.

Thirty minutes later, after simply basting a couple of times, the chicken and potatoes were cooked through and wafting lovely smells into the kitchen.

While it cooked I simply washed some lettuce and made a simple salad with chopped red pepper and sliced cucumber. Didn't need dressing. I served the hot chicken and potatoes alongside and sat down to a very fine supper indeed - 35 minutes after I started. Only used the one pan, too, so cleaning up was very quick.

The whole experience was just so conducive to feeling better - well fed and cared for, rather than harrassed and guilty. Would recommend...

DISCLAIMER I didn't buy or eat the tesco one

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