Even though I’ve only got two children, there are rarely only two at our kitchen table. For some reason our house is a magnet, and I’m often cooking for four or even six children. Juggling work and wanting to be there for mealtimes without being stressed with the cooking takes time to work out. I believe one of the most important parts of childhood and family time is sitting around to eat together at least once a day. If I’ve got plans later, I’ll have a cup of tea while the children eat, but if I’ve not got plans, I’ll often eat with them at six and take the opportunity to have an early night. Whatever happens, I sit with the children as they eat - we go through their day, what has happened and give them the opportunity to let me know if they’re worried, nervous or upset about anything.
One of my hacks is planning for the week. On a Monday I will poach a whole chicken which I will then shred and save the stock. From that I can make soup, pasta, risotto, sandwiches or salads. It tends to last us for the best part of a week (depending on the amount of visitors we have).
Put the chicken in a large pan and fill up so it’s covered with water.
Add a carrot (sliced up), an onion, a couple of bay leaves, some celery and bunch of flat leaf parsley. For this I tend to look in my fridge and use the slightly softer carrots that need using. If you’re missing something, it’s not the end of the world.
Add some salt and poach the chicken for around one and a half hours.
When it’s finished, fish the chicken out and place on a big chopping board. Let it cool a bit and with your hands take off all the meat. You’ll see it’s really tender and falls off the bone. I keep all the gristly bits and skin to add to my dog’s food. By the end there really is just a carcas left, no wastage!
Strain the vegetables out of the stock and put the stock in the fridge. It also freezes very well. I’ll often use old orange juice bottles which work brilliantly if you keep in the fridge. Beware, it does look like cloudy apple juice – my husband once poured himself a glass and got a nasty surprise.
On a winter’s evening one of our favourite recipes is chicken soup – boil some soup pasta (I do this separately as it makes the soup a bit glupey). Heat up stock, as it’s boiling add veggies (brocolli, beans or if you don’t have anything fresh frozen peas or edamame beans work well) and at the end add pasta and shredded chicken. The stock is a great source of lean protein, the pasta provides the carbohydrates and you’ve got plenty of veg in there.
I prefer something a bit more spicey so I’ll add some coconut milk to the stock, some bashed lemongrass, ginger, Tamari, Thai fish sauce, turmeric and chilli. I’ll have it with rice noodles and chicken and it’s delicious.
We’ll also make a filling salad for lunch with leaves, tomatoes, avocados, grains (I love the pre-cooked ones from Merchant Gourmet) and chicken. Or if the kids feel like pasta, I’ll fry a bit of bacon, add some stock and the chicken for a pasta that never fails to be eaten.