When you think of student food, you might think beans on toast, instant noodles and cold sausage rolls out of the fridge. In my first semester of university, 2 of those were meals that I ate when I became really desperate and was just way too tired after a long day of lectures to cook from scratch (and that was very often, thank god for the freezer). In fact there was a whole lot of food that I made in that tiny student kitchen, here’s just some of them:
But perhaps what you wouldn’t expect from a student kitchen is a Roast Chicken Dinner for 5, cooked entirely from scratch. And with it being Christmas in just a few days time, I thought I would share how I did our flat’s very early Christmas dinner (we actually did this back in October!).
You’ll notice that for the trimmings, frozen and tinned vegetables play a pivotal role. Frozen is much cheaper than their fresh equivalents and often have more nutrients than their fresh equivalents since the nutrients are locked in when they are frozen after being picked at their peak ripeness; this is supposedly when they are also packed with nutrients. As fresh vegetables (and fruit) are picked when they are under-ripe so that they can ripen at home, they don’t fulfil their nutrient potential so frozen is the smarter choice.
To save time, I spatchcocked the chicken, which basically means to remove the spine and then flattening the chicken out so that it cooks faster. It also exposes more of the skin so that it can crisp up beautifully too. I rest the chicken on a bed of chopped vegetables which absorb the flavour of the chicken and cook in its juices, forming the base of a gravy made from scratch! No instant gravy granules in this kitchen, it’s proper homemade gravy!
By no means is this the definitive guide to a roast chicken dinner and by no means is this the method which guarantees success every time. Everyone has their own way of doing their roasts, their potatoes and all the trimmings. I wanted to share what is possible in a student kitchen, cooking for 5 people on a tight budget.
This chicken dinner cost around £5 to make in total, coming in at just over £1.20 per head, including lots of leftovers, with the chicken being the most expensive ingredient here at £3.09, while everything else cost just pence to buy.
For the roast chicken:
1.6kg medium chicken, spatchcocked
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 small swede, chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 large carrot, chopped into 1cm rings
3 cloves of garlic, halved
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and black pepper
For the crispy roast potatoes:
4 large baking potatoes, peeled
2 – 3 tbsp plain flour
75g margarine or butter
For the trimmings:
250g frozen Brussel sprouts
1 x 170g packet of sage and onion stuffing mix
15 frozen Yorkshire puddings
1 x 210g tin of sweetcorn
200g frozen peas
1 x 400g tin of sliced carrots
For the gravy:
2 – 3 tbsp plain flour
250ml chicken stock
1 tbsp chicken gravy granules (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200˚C.
Spatchcock the chicken by taking a pair of sharp kitchen scissors and cutting along the sides of the spine to remove it. Turn the chicken over and press down on the breastside to flatten it out. Wash your hands and then season the chicken well on both sides with salt and pepper.
Place all the chopped vegetables and garlic cloves into the bottom of a roasting tin large enough to hold the chicken. Season and then rest the spatchcocked chicken on top. Rub the olive oil over the skin and through the vegetables.
Roast the chicken for around 1 hour and 30 minutes, basting the chicken with the juices in the roasting tin after every 30 minutes, letting the skin turn a wonderful crispy golden brown and the vegetables colour and soften. After the cooking time, leave the chicken to rest either on a plate or a disposable foil tray covered with more foil for around 15 minutes.
Meanwhile get started on the roast potatoes. Chop the potatoes into 2-inch pieces and boil them in salted water until they are just tender enough to insert a knife in. At this point, take another roasting dish and add in the fat and place it in the oven to get hot. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then give them a good shake so that the edges are fluffy (this gets them really crisp!) and toss over the flour to coat the potatoes; this coating ensures extra crispiness. Tip the potatoes carefully into the hot fat and shake them around to coat the potatoes evenly. The potatoes will take around 45 to 50 minutes to roast, moving them around every 10 – 15 minutes or so, making sure they aren’t stuck to the tin.
In the meantime, you can prepare the trimmings. The vegetables can simply be reheated in the microwave when you are ready to serve. For the sprouts, I cook them in salted boiling water with 1 tablespoon of mint sauce added to the cooking liquid until they are completely soft before draining. For the stuffing, follow the instructions on the packet and make them into stuffing balls which should take around 25 – 30 minutes to cook. The tinned vegetables can be done right at the last minute while the chicken rests, as can the Yorkshire puddings.
Once the chicken has cooked through and is resting in foil, remove as many of the roasted vegetables as you can, and place them into the bowl which will have the gravy. Place the roasting tin over a medium heat and whisk the flour into the cooking liquid. Cook the flour out for 1 minute, also scraping off all the bits in the tin which will add lots of flavour.
Gradually whisk in the chicken stock, adding more only once the previous addition is incorporated, until you have a smooth gravy. Add in the juices which have collected on the plate from the resting chicken and then season the gravy to taste, adding in gravy granules if it needs to be meatier or thicker. Add the vegetables back in and transfer the gravy to a saucepan to stay warm while you finish off the trimmings and carve the chicken up.
And since this is a 12 Days of Christmas bonus post, we couldn’t end this post without throwing back to the original 12 Days recipes! Here are all 12 of the posts below and if you haven’t already, then they are certainly worth checking out!!