My approach to grocery shopping at the moment is a phrase that's kept the printed tea-towel and gift-mug business going for a while: Keep calm and carry on.
I pace down the supermarket aisles keeping a safe 1.5-metres distance from my fellow shopper and look at the almost-bare shelves for inspiration. I pick up that bag of risoni pasta everyone has neglected for rigatoni - because it's a rice substitute and makes a killer risotto.
I grab a packet of TimTams because they're instant joy (even though I know I'll have to hide them so I don't eat them all in one sitting). And finally, when I make it to the meat section, I only look for one thing: a full chicken.
In a time where many of us are keeping our distance and self-isolating, planning my meals has anchored my daily routine. It's something I Iook forward to.
While others are at home spending the extra time doing yoga online or writing the next bestselling novel that J.K. Rowling will one day read to her grandchildren, I'll be in the kitchen experimenting with whatever's in the fridge and pantry.
"When I make it to the meat section, I only look for one thing: a full chicken."
This daily ritual led me to discover my new, favourite isolation cooking game: One chicken, three ways. You can play too. This game works best when using one chicken and feeding two people in a household, but each recipe can easily be adapted to feed more.
The first dish I make with the chicken is a classic roast. I serve this alongside some roast potatoes and a simple green salad or some green beans.
If there's two of us, there's quite a bit of chicken leftover, which I'll use for a cheat's Caesar salad, and use any leftover flesh for a chicken soup I bulk up with risoni.
It's the best type of game to play, too, because everyone wins the ultimate award of a home-cooked meal.
Classic roast chicken
- 1.2 - 1.5 kg whole chicken
- 2 brown onions
- 1 lemon
- 1 bulb of garlic
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 3 carrots (optional)
- 3 celery sticks (optional)
- fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme and tarragon are some options)
- Preheat oven 180°C.
- Keep chicken at room temperature for 30 minutes before prepping.
- Cut your onion into chunks and remove garlic from the bulb (keep the skin on). Put in baking tray and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you have on hand, you can also add carrot and celery here (if using, chop roughly).
- Rinse chicken and pat dry. In a clean bowl, generously coat chicken with extra virgin olive oil (2-3 glugs should do the trick) and season with salt, pepper and dried oregano. Massage into skin. Move chicken to tray and place atop vegetables.
- Cut the lemon in half and squeeze juice over chicken and vegetables, then put lemon into the cavity with your choice of herbs. Three sprigs of whatever you’re using should do the trick.
- Coat chicken and vegetables with another generous pour of olive oil.
- Put the chicken into the oven and cook for 80-90 minutes. Check chicken every 30 minutes and baste with its juices. To ensure the meat is cooked through, check flesh is not pink.
- Once cooked, pull out of the oven and cover with foil for 10-15 minutes. Then carve.
- Keep chicken fat in the tray and put it into a clean glass jar. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Cheat's chicken Caesar
Note: I call this a cheat's version because it is very much an improvised riff of a classic chicken Caesar using whatever we had in our fridge when I first made it.
- Leftover roast chicken, shredded
- 2 soft boiled eggs
- Baby cos
- 1 roll or 2 slices bread
- 4 radish, thinly sliced
- Shaved parmesan
For the dressing
- A handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
- ½ juice lemon
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 tbsp spoon Greek yoghurt
- 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Coarsely tear bread roll into or bread into bite-size chunks, fry in a pan with some salt and 1-2 tsp of olive oil. Keep moving bread around in the pan until it gets toasted. Set croutons aside.
- To make the dressing, combine Greek yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, dill and season with salt and pepper to your preference. If you want slightly more tangy add some more lemon.
- Assemble salad with lettuce, radish, chicken and croutons, shaved parmesan and however many anchovies you prefer. Pour over dressing and mix. Top with soft boiled eggs, halved.
Chicken and risoni soup
- Leftover roast chicken, shredded (about 300 g minimum should suffice for 2 people)
- 1 leek, sliced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- 1 cup peas, frozen is fine
- Dried oregano
- ½ cup risoni
- 2 litres chicken stock
- Fresh dill or parsley, to serve
- Olive oil
- Optional: 1 tbsp chicken fat
- Fry garlic, leeks, carrot in oil with 1 tbsp of chicken fat in a pot. Season with salt, pepper and 2tsp of dried oregano. Cook on medium-low for 5 minutes.
- Add stock and shredded chicken to the pot, bring to boil and simmer.
- Add ½ cup risoni to soup and cook on low for 50 minutes.
- Add frozen peas and bring the soup back to boil and cook for 10 minutes.
- Serve with fresh parsley or dill, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Fragrant and bursting with flavour, this polow is a great main meal and entertaining centrepiece.
Poaching very gently is the secret to super tender and juicy chicken. This Cantonese classic can be served as part of a banquet meal but is just as good over noodles or rice with some steamed veg.
This rich and flaky Moroccan pie, called b'stilla, is a showstopper. It pairs saffron- and spice-scented chicken with sweetened, ground almonds inside crispy filo dough.
A dish authentic to Da Nang, the noodles are tinted with turmeric and combined with chicken and all the goodness of fresh herbs.
In almost every corner of Hoi An you can see vendors selling chicken rice. The most common style of chicken rice is torn with your fingers, as Luke does with his dish.