Used to be recipes called for a specific type of chicken. An organic chicken. A free range chicken. A happy to die for your dinner chicken. Now all we want is one dead chicken.
Chicken stock or, if you prefer the contemporary nomenclature, bone broth, is one of the most useful things I can find in my freezer. Although this week, as part of my lockdown lunacy cleaning and gardening frenzy, I found myself emptying three ice cream containers of unspecified evil looking fluid, which may have started life as stock, into the compost heap. There is a very big something to be said for naming and dating the freezer contents.
Rural living brings that exquisite combination of life, death and dinner incredibly close to the table. A very small child of my acquaintance stood on his dining room chair and looked straight down at his dinner. “Is this a dead cow”?
It seems it is never too early to learn to recognize the sound of the homekill gun or learn to count. Even I can identify that particular sound. And that’s without even seeing the truck and the hoist. Recently I heard it with indifferent regularity echoing the Whakamarama Hills – freezers being stocked up for lockdown and beyond.
So back to dead chickens. I regard those plastic packed corpses as one of the most wonderful aspects of my culinary life. Having once had to help pluck and gut 100 chickens (enough already), I adore the almost sterile presentation of the ready to use fleshy little body. And if I haven’t managed to put you off cooked chicken yet the images of what’s left over after one of my stock, bone broth, soup-making escapades may do.
My favourite way of making soup is to use the carcass, artistically known as the frame of the chicken. I’ve found it doesn’t matter if it’s a cooked chicken frame or the frame of a chicken I have amateurishly dissected for future reference. I confess that on the occasions I’ve used the frame and left over bits and pieces of a supermarket rotisserie chicken my eventual soup has had a certain exotic flavour. Best one I think was after I almost annihilated the remains of a chili and lime flavoured chicken.
If I’m using an uncooked frame or the frame of a plain old unseasoned cooked chicken here’s what I do. The results can vary – I suppose chickens are like people, some are just more tasty than others.
In my large pot aka the stock pot (in which I just made jam) I put some olive oil in the bottom, then cut an onion in half or quarters if I’m feeling energetic. If I haven’t been saving the vegetable peelings in an ice cream container in the freezer I’ll chop a carrot into about three big bits and drop those in. On top of that I drop in the chicken carcass and brown the whole lot.
Before it reaches the point of incineration – watch it as incineration occurs faster than you can believe – I’ll cover it all with boiling water. Please don’t write and tell me it should be cold water I don’t care. At this point I add in any washed herbs I can find in the garden – rosemary, sage (well that’s dry in the airing cupboard at the moment); thyme and I grind in some black pepper. I leave it on low on the back of the stove and go away. As I do not want to die in a domestic fire, I come back regularly to check there is enough water in the pot.
I’ve tried using my current slow cooker to make soups, stocks and casseroles but it just “doesn’t make them like the old one did”. So I’ve Luddite decided I’ll use that prehistoric technique of a pot on the stove. But, if you love your slow cooker or have a deep and personal relationship with your new “instapot” – do what ever makes you happy.
The whole point of boiling up the tragic looking carcass of a former feathered friend is to end up with something edible. If you need a deep and meaningful relationship with your kitchenware I recommend you get a cat (for affection, not for food).
After you’ve boiled the pot contents for an unspeakably long time it will go murky and it is difficult to identify with precision what is or was what. For some reason it remains easy to identify the carrots as they are orange and stand out in the otherwise slightly mangrove brown.
I like to let my pot of horrors cool slightly before straining it. This is the most kitchen utensil intensive part of the process for me. I’ve tried using a spoon thing to get all the big bits out – tricky stuff requiring a steady hand. I’ve used a medium sized strainer-sieve and fished about like a child looking for its lost goldfish. I’ve poured through the sieve into another pot. I’ve poured into my steamer pot.
You can see why I let it cool. One unfortunate slip with boiling stuff and it would be that dreaded combination of A & H – ambulance and hospital. Although I consider the combined extended family derision more frightening.
As I do not have a cat I put the remains of the day into a recycled porridge oats bag and then keep it in the bottom of the freezer to be silently removed by the weekly rubbish collection.
I like to let the stock have a period of quiet repose in a cool climate. This is not for romantic purposes but allows all the chicken fat to set or congeal (such an unpleasant word) on the top of the container. I take that off too and put into another recycled bag to be silently removed when the opportunity arises.
At this point it’s begin the bliss. Well that’s bliss for me, probably not for the dead chicken who is somewhere up where dead chickens go spitting feathers as they say.
In cooking terms I’m the product of a reasonably standard English post-war diet. Think meat and vegetables followed by a cooked pudding. This means that I want my end product soup to remind me of my childhood and sage and onion stuffing, roast pumpkin and potatoes and baked beans on toast.
So I add to my basic stock murk more chopped up carrots, potatoes, kumara, onions, garlic, pumpkin and any of the left over cooked dead chicken flesh/meat. I put in more herbs from the garden – funnily enough the same ones I put in the stock – rosemary, sage, thyme, black pepper. I’ve got either chives or little multiplying onions growing in the garden and I’ll wash those and cut up – they float around like cut grass which can be slightly disconcerting. I’ll also wash, chop up and throw in anything suspiciously green and that includes lettuce.
I usually don’t put salt in my cooking so it’s not an oversight it’s not mentioned. If I’m feeling extravagant or daring or both I’ll empty a tin of baked beans into the mix. And if I’m feeling lonely, lazy or busy or all three I’ll wash about a cup of brown rice and sprinkle that in. The brown rice is a wonderful addition if you find the potatoes you planned to use have decided to “sprout” or you ate the potatoes with olive oil, rosemary and cheese with a glass of wine on Friday night while watching something on YouTube. Life can be difficult!
I love thick soups not only in winter. I’ve just gobbled my way through two huge pans full – one chicken, vegetables and rice and the other one chicken, vegetables and pumpkin. They’re so useful to have lurking in the freezer in small containers for hysterically busy day lunches.
I do recommend you label stuff in the freezer if you can’t see into the container. Although visual aids are not always reliable. Cold, tired and fed up from trying to achieve something or other outside I raced in to have my “pumpkin soup”. Ha bloody ha – was marmalade pulp. Have you noticed how for five minutes you stare at the marmalade pulp thinking this will transform it into pumpkin soup? No? You’re obviously too well fed.
Wanting the equivalent of toast to have with your soup. Now’s the time to become the Bay of Plenty’s Julia Child. Griddle scones are basically self raising flour, olive oil or melted butter and milk mixed together and patted into a round on the griddle. I usually use the flat of the mixing knife or the back of the spoon I’ve used to mix the dough.
I use a crepe pan I found in one of the local Op Shops. If you recognize it you can’t have it back. I heat the pan up. Grease it with either more olive oil or a piece of saved butter paper (how droll).
I put the ball of dough in the middle of the pan, sprinkle it with flour and pat it flat with whatever I used to mix the dough. I generally lower the heat but don’t turn it off.
I leave it on the first side until I think it’s cooked or going to burn and then I flip it over with a short-handled fish slice thing. I cook the other side and then slide it onto a plate. It’s like a very thin, flat scone.
If you’re feeling decadent you can spread some butter on it. Delicious with your soup (particularly if you grate a respectable amount of locally made “parmesan” cheese on the soup).
If you want something for your traditional Kiwi morning tea and don’t want to turn the oven on – mix up this dough with some ground ginger and cinnamon and then eat with butter and jam. Sickeningly good – you’ll need a big lie down before getting back to the lawnmower.
And that’s where I’m going right now. It’s a New Zealand institution – lawn mowing. And I’m doing it!
Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.
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The Corner Shop NZ
As many of the traditional haunts of The Corner Shop NZ may be closed at the moment we will share with you interesting and amazing stuff we have found online, the progress of the property up here in Whakamarama and of course some more of the eclectic range of the vintage, collectable and just plain weird we have in our shop. We hope you all stay safe and well and we’ll see you in one of our favourite cafes (with cake) soon!
On the ARTbop YouTube channel and the The Corner Shop NZ facebook page a two part rural mail box washing demonstration – enjoy.
Cleaning a rural mailbox in Whakamarama: This is a series – well it’s a two part video and this is Part I. For most of my life i have lived in rural New Zealand or on the fringe of a rural area. Someone suggested that our rural mail letterboxes are sanitised. So Redbands (gumboots) on down I went to ensure the life and happiness of our rural mailmen.
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WHILE THE WORLD FACES THE CURRENT HEALTH CRISIS NZ Must See will bring New Zealand to you through its facebook page so you can visit us without leaving your home.
NZ MUST SEE
Today we visit ABUNDANT BACKYARD a micro organic commerical vegetable growing operation in our rural district. They are no longer able to trade as the markets they visit have been closed for health safety reasons. They have immediately set up an online, contactless vege box local delivery scheme. Enjoy their garden and all the hard work it represents.
AND WHERE EVER YOU ARE AROUND THE BAY OF PLENTY
BE SAFE AND HAPPY AND ENJOY!