The first thing to do is to get yourself a good quality, higher-welfare chicken and put it in a large pot. Cover it with water and add any veg you have handy. I like to add some chopped up carrots, a few sticks of celery, and an onion. Then I throw in some herbs; perhaps a sprig of rosemary and a bay leaf. Add a few peppercorns, a teaspoon of sea salt and a couple of crushed bulbs of garlic and you’re off. Bring it all to the boil and then simmer for about an hour and twenty minutes. Trust me when I say you are going to get beautifully soft and silky cooked chicken, plus a lovely broth.
The reason I love this poached chicken is that you can make it into a hearty meal all year round by using whatever seasonal veg is available. For example, after the chicken has been poaching for about an hour, you could add some quartered fennel. This will cook with the chicken for the last 20 minutes. Things like beans and peas should go in five minutes before the chicken is ready to come out as they cook quickly.
Basically, as long as you know how long your vegetables take to cook, the choices are endless. Below is a list of veg and their timings to get you started. Keep in mind that if it’s summer time the seasonal veg will cook really quickly and be light and delicious.
• Chopped swedes and turnips – 30 mins
• Cabbage – 20 mins
• Chopped potatoes/ new potatoes – 20 mins
• Quartered fennel – 20 minutes
• Frozen or fresh broad beans & peas – 5 minutes
• Chopped asparagus – 5 minutes
• Spinach – 30 seconds
When your chicken is cooked, take it out of the pot, and use a fork to shred as much meat off the bones as possible. Have a little taste to make sure it’s seasoned enough for your liking. Take that torn up beautiful white and dark chicken meat and divide it among some bowls. To finish off, ladle some of the tasty poached broth and veg over it to make a lovely meal of steaming potatoes, greens and peas. This is a great dinner, especially served with a nice dollop of horseradish sauce or mustard.
The Italians do multiple versions of this dish using shins of beef, shoulders of pork and even poached duck (which is delicious). If you try these, don’t forget that different meats take different times to cook. For duck, pork and shins of beef we’re talking about 3 hours of poaching, or until the meat is falling off the bone.
You can also use the shredded meat from your poached chicken to make a really hearty salad. In the summer, toss it in with some cooked new potatoes, mixed salad leaves and herbs. Dress at the last minute with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar then serve it up on a big platter. Delicious!
When you make poached chicken you are going to be left with quite a lot of broth. Don’t throw this away! There’s something really nice about having simple, clean, therapeutic chicken broth.
So put it through a sieve, bag it up and freeze it to use later. It will be fantastic as a stock for making risottos, gravy or soups. For an Asian twist, you could add noodles and veg such as sweetcorn, baby corn, pak choi, chilli or sugar snap peas to the broth.
After a roast chicken
Because I love roast chicken, and eat it on a regular basis, I am now in a routine where, before doing the washing up, I throw the carcass and any tasty scraps and scrapings from the roasting and carving tray into a pot.
I cover the chicken with water, add some herbs and bring it all to the boil. This also makes a lovely cloudy broth that you can leave to simmer for an hour or so while you watch a bit of telly in the evening. This broth can be used in the same way as above.
I hope these ideas are helpful. They are certainly tasty. So give them a try and use up all of that chicken!