The whole bird

I hate waste, especially when it comes to food. In this day and age, few of us can afford to be throwing good food away. But there’s more to being frugal than just saving money – from a nutritional and flavour perspective, when cooking meat there is real benefit to getting into the habit of enjoying more than just the tender flesh of an animal, and I am a big fan of using the bones that many people throw away, plus I think it shows respect to the lovely creature that has provided myself and my family with a meal.

This week in my kitchen it’s all about chicken – I have enjoyed a delicious roast chicken (my absolute favourite, especially the crispy skin…), made some nourishing stock from the bones, and just today made a chicken liver pâté from some inexpensive organic chicken livers – and I wanted to share the recipes with you. Before I do that though, I really must extol the nutritional virtues of home-made stock and home-made pâté – both are super foods in my opinion for different reasons, and provide so much more in terms of versatility and nutritional value than just the meat, delicious though it is.

Meat stock (or broth) made from an organic chicken carcass (or lamb or beef bones) makes any soup, casserole or sauce taste so much better, adding a subtle depth of flavour and silky texture that it’s impossible to get from water or processed stock powders and cubes. It contains minerals in a form the body can easily absorb, glucosamine for healthy joints, and collagen and gelatin which are wonder ingredients for skin, hair and the digestive system – for more information about the benefits of meat stocks, see our recent newsletter here.

Chicken livers are, without doubt, a very under-rated and under-used food. Many people feel squeamish about eating offal despite the fact they haven’t tried it at its best – memories of overcooked steak and kidney pie, or grey, rubbery liver are enough to put anyone off for life. If you aren’t a fan, I do urge you to try again by making your own chicken liver pâté. It is so easy and so delicious, you’ll be glad you did. With my nutritionist hat on, chicken livers are high in protein, and provide a fantastic source of well absorbed iron, vitamin A, folate and vitamin B12, supporting energy production and boosting fertility. Many women of menstruating age have persistently low ferritin levels, even in the absence of anaemia, and eating chicken liver pâté (or just chicken livers for that matter) is a very useful way of naturally boosting iron stores.

Mineral-rich chicken stock – makes about a 1.5-2 litres
1 large chicken carcass, including the neck and giblets if you have them. You can also use the bones from legs, thighs and drumsticks
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 clove of garlic, peeled and left whole
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped into large pieces
1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 stick of celery, washed and roughly chopped
10 peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Place all ingredients into a large slow cooker or a large heavy bottomed pan with a lid. Add enough filtered water to cover the ingredients so it comes up to about an inch below the top of the pot. Bring the stock to the boil, turn it right down to a simmer, and skim all the skum from the top of the water. Then if using a slow-cooker, reduce the heat setting to very low and then allow to cook for a minimum of 8 hours and up to 24 hours – the longer the better. If you are not using a slow cooker, place the casserole pot into an oven set at approximately 110-120 degrees c – it’s easiest to just start the stock in the evening and leave it cooking in the oven overnight. When the stock is ready, turn off the slow cooker or oven, and allow the stock to cool. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and place the cooled stock into glass jars or ceramic or pottery jugs for storage in the fridge for a up to a week or the freezer for later use.

Chicken liver pâté (adapted from a recipe at www.paleomom.com)
450g chicken livers, trimmed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
6 fresh sage leaves
1 small sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
80ml dry sherry (or 30ml cider vinegar/50ml apple juice)
1/4 tsp ground mace
4 tbsp coconut oil or unsalted butter
Sea salt and black pepper

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil or butter in a large frying or sauté pan. Gently sweat the onions, garlic, mace, sage leaves, rosemary and bay leaf for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft. Add the liver to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until they are cooked on the outside but still pink in the middle. Add the sherry (or vinegar and apple juice), bring to the boil and cook for 2-3 minutes until you can no longer smell the alcohol. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf and rosemary stalk, and then add the rest of the oil or butter. Tip the hot mixture into a food processor and blend until smooth, adding sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Spoon the pâté into a bowl or dish and then to prevent it turning brown, either cover with melted butter or melted coconut oil, or cover with PVC free cling film so the film touches the pâté tightly across the surface. Chill in the fridge to set before serving.

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